An ingenious drone delivery service known as “Uber for blood” has slashed the delivery time of life-saving medicine to remote regions of Rwanda from four hours to an average of half an hour.
A partnership between Zipline, a Silicon Valley robotics company, and the country’s health ministry has delivered more than 5,500 units of blood over the past year, often in life-saving situations. Never before have patients in the country received blood so quickly and efficiently.
While commercial drone delivery in wealthier countries is still at the testing stage, hampered by busy skies and strict regulations on airspace, Zipline is delivering blood to 12 regional hospitals from a base in the east of Rwanda. Each hospital serves about half a million people.
The use of drones is helping to reduce maternal deaths – a quarter of which are the result of blood loss during childbirth – and high incidences of malaria-induced anaemia, which is common in children.
Drone delivery also means hospitals can store less blood, which means less waste as blood spoils quickly.