Rwanda will start using drones to deliver blood and medicine to transfusion facilities in rural areas.
Following an agreement signed by the Rwandan government and a US-based firm Zipline, the country will become the first ever nation to use an autonomous system for delivering blood bags.
Zipline will work with international delivery company UPS to deliver blood and vaccines to half the transfusion centres in the East African country.
Through a foundation, UPS will provide 800,000 US dollars funding to the project that will begin in August.
“We do believe that supply chain, having an efficient and resilient supply chain saves lives and so we’ve been actively engaged with organizations around the world bringing relief when supply chains are inefficient and broken. But you know when we partner with these United Nation agencies and NGOs, we learn a lot too,” said Eduardo Martinez, President of UPS.
According to reports, Zipline is targeting making as many as 150 blood deliveries a day from its central base in western Rwanda.
Around 20 transfusion facilities within about a 37-mile radius will be recipients of the packages.
Zipline chose Rwanda as its first country site because of its low air traffic.
“I actually think that one of the best ways we can work together with the FAA to help this technology take off in the U.S. is by operating in a country where we can basically serve a very clear need and get tens of thousands of hours of safe flight data because I think we can provide that to the FAA then that will actually accelerate the process and so that we can actually implement this kind of technology here in this country,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo.
Zipline aims to be within a 30-minute delivery radius of 11 million Rwandan citizens by the end of 2016.
The Rwandan government delivers an average of 65,000 units of blood annually.