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.
Four years ago, Alameda County, California's purchase of two drones for use by law enforcement was controversial. Now, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department has six drones, and their use is routine. So said Tom Madigan, a commander at the Alameda Sheriff's Office, to drone industry representatives and other law enforcement officials gathered at Drone World Expo in San Jose, Calif., last week. The Alameda County drone program has been fully operational for only about two years, Madigan said. In that time, he indicated, the Alameda Sheriff's Office has flown drones 700 times as part of 175 real-world missions, including search and rescue, fire scene surveillance, homicide scene analysis, and providing eyes in the sky during high-risk tactical operations.
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.
Artificial intelligence can't replace your doctor yet but it can help diagnose illness. Pfizer Inc. is expanding its AI-enabled analytics toolset to catch diseases that are easy to miss because they're rare or disguised by other illnesses a patient may have. The cloud-based system, called Virtual Analytics Workbench, brings together physicians notes, lab reports, demographics and other patient particulars, as CIO Journal's Sara Castellanos reports. Health care presents exciting opportunities to apply AI, but we're still far from Dr. McCoy's tricorder instant diagnostic device on Star Trek. One obstacle slowing AI's progress generally is a lack of suitable data with which to train algorithms, according to Kate Crawford, a distinguished research professor at New York University and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New York, She spoke at the WSJ Future of Everything Festival this week.
Next month, Switzerland's hospitals will be equipped with a potentially revolutionary autonomous drone delivery network. Healthcare providers and a Menlo Park, California company called Matternet have teamed up to implement the system across the country. And on Wednesday, Matternet announced that they had completed "the third and final technology component" to make their drone and information system a reality. It's called the Matternet Station: a two square foot robotic drone loading dock and smart launching and landing pad that enables hospitals to quickly send and receive crucial medical samples and resources, all by drone.