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Life-Saving Medical Supply Drones Launch in Rwanda

Hospitals in Rwanda, known as “the land of a thousand hills” will now be utilizing drone technology to send much needed medical supplies to its many under-equipped hospitals. These deliveries are normally only sent to the institutions that need them the most, as most of these hospitals are located in difficult to reach areas and travel along the arduous rural roads is difficult and time-consuming.

The drones, called The Ziplines, look like little airplanes. It’s specially engineered wing design features one six ft. long wing in place of the basic quadcopters allowing the Zipline to travel further distances more efficiently, making trips of up to 93 miles. The drones travel at about 70 kph (43 mph) hour, weigh approx. 29 lbs., and can make 150 deliveries a day. Before the drones, it took an average of four hours to deliver medical supplies to these hospitals, which has now been shortened to roughly 15 minutes according to CNN Money.

The drones will be used to deliver all sorts of medical supplies and equipment, such as medical products such as surgical gowns, laparotomy sponges, and disposable garments that hospitals may run out of as well as other medicines, vaccines, and anti-venom treatments. The drones, however, will be used primarily to deliver blood, a precious commodity in Rwanda, and required for vital blood transfusions, the lack of which, is a leading cause of death in Rwanda. For mothers delivering babies, it is especially dangerous due to postpartum bleeding in hospitals without the proper types of blood.

Zipline, the creators of the battery-powered delivery system known as Zips, is a Silicon Valley startup headed by CEO Keller Rinaudo, who said, “drone service will allow the Rwandan government to instantly deliver life-saving transfusions to any citizen in 15 to 30 minutes,” according to DW. The initial goal for the drones is delivery to five Rwandan hospitals, and within one year, they hope to expand to 45 hospitals.