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Drones Deliver Blood in Africa With New 'Uber-Like' Service

Image: Drones Deliver Blood in Africa With New 'Uber-Like' Service

(Cyril Ndegeya/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 03 January 2018 12:58 PM

Drones are delivering blood to remote regions of Africa, slashing delivery time in some places from four hours to a half-hour.

Zipline, a robotics company based in California, has been flying blood to Rwanda in partnership with the country's health ministry, The Guardian reported. More than 5,500 units of bloods have been transported by Zipline for the past year, delivering to 12 regional hospitals from a base east of the country, the newspaper noted.

"Some of the biggest, most powerful technology companies in the world are still trying to figure out how to do this," Keller Rinaudo, Zipline's cofounder and chief executive officer, said, according to The Guardian. "But east Africa is showing them all the way."

"The work in Rwanda has shown the world what's possible when you make a national commitment to expand health care access with drones and help save lives," Rinaudo added.

The blood has helped reduce maternal deaths that were the result of blood loss during childbirth, and cut down on the high incidences of malaria-induced anemia, which is common in children.

The Guardian wrote that the delivery allows hospitals to store less blood, which means less waste from blood spoilage.

"The ministry of health and Rwanda Biomedical Center are happy to use such innovative technology to reduce the average delivery time from four hours to less than 45 minutes, with quick and reliable delivery [of] blood products," a Rwanda health ministry spokesman stated, per The Guardian.

This year, Zipline is expanding its drone service to include Tanzania, which has a population of 55.7 million, compared to Rwanda, which has a population of 11.92 million, according to nonprofit IEEE Spectrum.

Doctors use the WhatsApp Messenger to request blood and the drones use GPS navigation to find the hospital and drop off the blood pack in a padded container with a parachute.

Rinaudo told IEEE Spectrum that the biggest challenge for Zipline is not the technology, but jumping over regulatory hurdles and training local teams to operate distribution centers.

"The technology is the easy part," Rinaudo told IEEE Spectrum. "We want [healthcare professionals] to understand how this technology benefits them."

Rinaudo said he hopes Zipline can expand to more countries this year.

"Rwanda has shown such remarkable success that a lot of other countries want to follow in its footsteps," Rinaudo told IEEE Spectrum. "The problems we're solving in Rwanda aren't Rwanda problems, they're global problems — rural healthcare is a challenge everywhere."

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Drones are delivering blood to remote regions of Africa, slashing delivery time in some places from four hours to a half-hour.
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2018-58-03
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 12:58 PM
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