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Zipline’s blood delivery via drone technology to extend across Africa

Californian robotics company Zipline has developed drone services to help deliver blood within Rwanda back in 2016. An ongoing success, the company is n...

Catherine Sturman
|Aug 24|magazine7 min read

Californian robotics company Zipline has developed drone services to help deliver blood within Rwanda back in 2016. An ongoing success, the company is now working with Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, it has ambitions to expand this technology across Tanzania by 2018.

Seen as a vital service within emergency surgery, the drone technology can deliver blood where required, cutting down essential travel time it would take for blood to be delivered via road services from Kigali. Through the technology, a distribution center in Kigali are able to place the needed supplies onto the drone, which is able to deliver the supplies at the selected location in under an hour.

Within its Tanzania launch, Zipline is partnering with the Human Development Impact Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Saving Lives at Birth initiative to conduct research on the Zipline’s impact on the region, The Verge reports. The company has also raised over $35 million in venture capital funding.

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Providing much needed employment across Rwanda and Tanzania, the technology will enable the launch of four new distribution centers in Tanzania which will be operated by local workers, who Zipline train to become skilled engineers, flight operators, health workers and distribution workers, in order to provide a consistent, exceptional emergency service. The company also hope to expand its services to incorporate other medical supplies.

Workers order the required supplies through their mobile phones, where they will receive a swift confirmation message in response to state the required supplies are now on the way to the desired location. Replacing the need for drones to drop the supplies onto hard ground, the technology utilises paper parachutes so that they can gradually descend.

Zipline is responsible for the construction of its drones, where the new distribution centers will house over 100 drones. These will be updated with sophisticated technologies in order to accommodate a greater number of supplies. At present, the company has undertaken over a thousand delivers in Rwanda. With Tanzania becoming double the size, it will consequently looks at supporting over a thousand health facilities in the region.

However, although the company is located in California, the technology has yet to trial in the US due to regulatory restrictions.