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Author Topic: US-made Drones Now Saving Lives in Rwanda  (Read 284 times)

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US-made Drones Now Saving Lives in Rwanda
« on: October 21, 2016, 12:38:09 AM »
Images of drones are often associated with surveillance and military attacks. But a California-based technology startup is trying to change that image from one that causes fear to one that inspires hope.

Zipline International is using drones to deliver vaccines, medicine and blood to some of the most hard-to-reach populations in Rwanda. The company designs and manufactures small airplanes called Zips. The drones weigh about 12 kilograms and deliver up to 1.5 kilograms of medical products to any location within a 75-kilometer radius, said Keller Rinaudo, chief executive of Zipline International.

The startup began making deliveries early this month, reaching out to 21 hospitals and health centers in rural Rwanda. It plans to expand the work.

"Over the next few months we are going to be handling about half of all deliveries of blood transfusions for the country,"

The government of Rwanda delivers about 65,000 units of blood a year, and 50 percent of that is going toward preventative measures such as postpartum hemorrhaging, or excessive bleeding following childbirth. Rinaudo said health workers can request blood drops using text messages and the drones deliver them in about 30 minutes.

After a request has been made, a Zip will be loaded with the medical product that the doctor ordered, dispatched and sent to a specified location. The drone descends to about 10 meters and drops the medical product into a container called a mailbox, then flies home and is available for another flight.

"It can be really difficult to get even 30 or 40 kilometers to reach certain populations, and so Zipline is designed to take a trip that could take hours and, instead, be able to deliver that medical product in a matter of minutes," Rinaudo said. "Each Zip can fly a total of about 150 kilometers. That means we can go 75 kilometers out to drop a package and 75 kilometers back. We do that on a battery."

His company chose to launch in Rwanda because it is a country on the cutting edge of innovation in health-care technology.

"They are trying to do new things. It is also a country with really challenging terrain, known as the land of a thousand hills," Rinaudo said.



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