In a warehouse outside of Kigali, Rwanda, 15 drones sit waiting to receive a message. When the text comes in, one loads up and zips off into the sky – on a mission to save a life. Today, the government of Rwanda announced an emergency drone delivery service. These drones will make up to 150 trips per day, carrying blood supplies to clinics in need. Rwanda has relatively good infrastructure in some places, but in others it can be unreliable, says Moz Siddiqui at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), one of the partners in the project, along with UPS and California drone company Zipline.
ONCE THOUGHT OF AS A NICHE TOY for early adopters, drones can now be found buzzing over parks, in select cities, and are even being increasingly used for video production as the popularity of aerial photography soars. However, drones aren't only for fun and entertainment, and the high-pitched hum of their spinning propellers could replace the wail of ambulance sirens for global citizens as drones are put to work for humanitarian purposes. In March of 2017, DJI, the manufacturers of the most popular commercial drones, published a report about drones' life-saving capabilities, citing cases in which drones manned by volunteers or bystanders were used in emergency situations like floods and avalanches, resulting in 59 life-saving rescues in China, Canada, the U.S., and Turkey. Given that it takes 25 people 35 hours to search one square mile for missing persons, compared to the 30 minutes it takes a drone to cover the same area, regardless of treacherous conditions on the ground, drones are uniquely suited for search and rescue, even when piloted by hobbyists. Based on the increasing trend of drone use in the last 10 months covered by the report, DJI estimated that drones would be directly responsible for saving at least one person per week in the future.
Crowded airspace and complicated regulations have so far stalled drone deliveries in the United States, but in Rwanda -- where the flight paths are clearer and the red tape a little thinner -- drones are ready for takeoff courtesy of a partnership between UPS, Zipline and Gavi. The Rwandan government has signed a deal with the California-based robotics company Zipline to make its country the first ever to use a drone delivery system on a national scale. Zipline is partnering with the UPS Foundation and Gavi, the nonprofit vaccine alliance, to execute its plan to make up to 150 drone deliveries per day of live-saving blood to 21 health facilities across a broad swath of the western portion of Rwanda. The plan combines Zipline's resilient drone design with the supply chain expertise of UPS and Gavi's experience delivering vaccines to all parts of the world. The deliveries are promised to make it to the designated health facilities in around 30 minutes -- orders of magnitude faster than it takes now.
A California startup called Zipline International has announced a partnership with the government of Rwanda to use its fixed-wing cargo drones to deliver medical supplies to remote health clinics in the East African nation. The Zip aircraft is made by Bay Area startup Zipline, which will begin drone delivery of blood and medicine to remote Rwandan clinics later this year. SAN FRANCISCO-- How's this for a flight plan to get a drone delivery service financially aloft? Carry cargo that's of live-saving importance, fly long-range fixed-wing aircraft in uncongested skies, and score a government as your first client. That's the atypical approach being taken by Zipline, a Bay Area startup that has raised 18 million in funding from Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and others.