Could Drone Deliveries Save Lives? A Public-Private Partnership in Rwanda Might Prove It.

A nonprofit firm is working with a drone-delivery startup and one of the world’s largest logistics companies to create a drone-delivery network in Rwanda. The goal? To deliver important medical supplies throughout the country.

Drone deliveries aren’t yet common enough that, say, Amazon can use them. But they do have their place, and that place, apparently, is Rwanda.

Last month, the country launched the first national drone-delivery service, with its offerings dedicated to emergency deliveries of blood and other medical necessities.

The initiative came to life with the help of UPS and the robotics startup Zipline—the latter of which recently raised $25 million to expand its delivery network, according to VentureBeat. And the nonprofit sector is offering a helping hand as well. Back in May, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, teamed with the two companies to analyze how drones could be used to deliver basic health products to parts of the world where the elements may damage the materials or make them inaccessible to people in need.

In researching the opportunity, the trio of organizations saw a way to expand into areas where unmanned aerial vehicles could help save thousands of lives each year. Zipline’s devices can help make 150 deliveries per day between 21 blood-transfusing facilities throughout Rwanda, a huge opportunity for the medical field in a part of the world where postpartum hemorrhaging threatens lives at a very high rate.

While the service is starting with blood delivery, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance—with the help of a $1.1 million grant from the UPS Foundation—hopes to help expand the use of drones to deliver vaccines and different forms of medicine.

“Drones have the potential to revolutionize the way we reach remote communities with emergency medical supplies. The hours saved delivering blood products or a vaccine for someone who has been exposed to rabies with this technology could make the difference between life and death,” said Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley, in a UPS news release.

Zipline, which has raised money from a number of well-known venture capital firms, including Google Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Visionnaire Ventures, hopes to expand its drone-delivery process in the U.S. within the next six months, according to VentureBeat.

“The inability to deliver life-saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo told the website. “Zipline will help solve that problem once and for all. We’re building an instant delivery system for the world, allowing medicines and other products to be delivered on-demand and at low cost, anywhere. This new funding will help make that vision possible much sooner.”

(Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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