How Drones Logistics Redefined Blood Delivery in Rwanda

Delivering good is always a challenge, and it’s a particularly hard challenge in a mountainous country like Rwanda. An ambitious company known as Zipline noticed that drones could solve this geographic challenge by just going over the terrain. And if it works, they should deliver one of the most time sensitive cargo that exists: blood. Now when a rural health clinic needs new blood they call Zipline who dispatch a drone.

Their system is efficient, safe, and is a good model for other countries with similar logistic challenges.

“It’s so good. And it’s not just good for Rwanda,” says Timothy Amukele, a pathologist who is not involved with the research team or Zipline, but who previously ran a medical drone group with projects in Namibia and Uganda. (Amukele is currently the global medical director for ICON Laboratory Services, which helps run clinical trials.) Drone applications for global medicine have been touted for years, but researchers have lacked concrete data to back up that promise, says Amukule: “This is more than just guys playing with toys.”

“Drones are not easy,” he continues. “To actually make this a success, where they’re getting blood and packing it safely and releasing the drones and monitoring the flight and bringing them back—and for five years covering 80 percent of that country—it’s just really impressive.”

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