Rwanda has inaugurated a drone operation that is expected to kick start a revolution in the supply of medical care in rural parts of Africa.
The drones dubbed “Zips” are shaped like a fat-bellied miniature plane with a two-metre wingspan.
Flying at up to 70 kilometres per hour, it is predicted each drone could make as many as 150 blood deliveries a day.
The project is hailed as the world’s first commercial regular drone delivery service.
“The drones will save lives,” said Gregg Svingen, Head of Communications at UPS.
US package-delivery giant UPS and global vaccine alliance Gavi have invested $1.1 million in the Zipline project, which they hope will aid in the speedy delivery of blood.
“So this is a really urgent product. 80% is going to people mums and kids whose lives are on the line. And the challenge with blood is that it doesn’t last very long and there are lots of different types of it,” said keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline.
The drones will initially be used to deliver blood, plasma, and coagulants to hospitals across rural western Rwanda.
Zipline plans to open a second base in Rwanda next year.