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How a High-Tech Drone Fleet Is Changing Medicine in Rwanda


In most places in the world, when people think about going to hospitals or getting medical supplies there, it is not a big problem, you can just get in a car In Rwanda, it's a little bit different

With using a drone, you don't have to worry about whether the roads are slippery today, whether it's nighttime or daytime My name is Joseph Ndagijimana I am the general manager for Zipline Rwanda Zipline is a drone delivery service We deliver blood, medical products, vaccines to hospitals in remote areas in Rwanda and in Ghana

One of the hospitals that we serve just requested us to send two units of red blood cells So, Nicole over here is going to start packing it and make sure that units to get to the hospitals, as soon as possible The hospitals do not know when someone is going to come up at the hospital with a new condition So, the pharmacist picks up the phone and calls Zipline So within five minutes the drone will be in the air going into the hospital

So we aim to make it as fast as possible Some of the products that Zipline delivers are needed in critical situations like life or death situations When the blood dropped here, then this lady will just pick it and take it to the laboratory It's coming, it's coming It is like lighting

It is very fast Zipline has done a lot to us They have reduced the cost that we are incurring in going to Kigali to pick up the blood If there is a woman at the hospital, they were going to deliver their baby, but then something unexpected happened and they started to bleed, you don't have the luxury to do a four-hour drive one way and then four hours the other way to be able to treat that patient We asked the hospitals, like, does it take to get supplies and they were like okay six hours sometimes a day when it has been raining

And we were like okay yes we are going to beat that When Zipline started developing this technology, Rwanda was one of the first countries that were interested, many other countries were interested, but Rwanda was willing to take the Rwanda is embracing innovation in technology It's one of the competitive advantages over other places where there are many natural resources or like more access to trade I have a drone coming brought from a hospital that we are going to do recover So, the structure has motors, and they communicate with our server

And when the drone gets within the vicinity of the distribution center They can already communicate There is a small hook on the tail of the drone that the recovery system is gonna catch Here we go The recovery system communicates with great precision with the drone to be able to catch it mid-air

It's small continuous improvements that we do that make a big difference The doors on the drones are kept here standby Even the doors are open so you don't want to even waste, those fractions of seconds Zipline Muhanga is the busiest airport in Rwanda It's busier than Kigali International Airport On a day-to-day basis we can do around 30 deliveries here

And then another 20 from our second distribution center in the eastern part of Rwanda, we are currently working with 44 hospitals, but we are working to also onboard more health facilities So our goal is to be able to service all 500 health facilities in Rwanda using our two distribution centers It's capacity is estimated to be around 150 deliveries a day Zipline works to give access to vital medical supplies to patients in rural areas I think if we have been delivering pizzas to people's homes, we would have a harder time like convincing the government to take a risk and like be the first country to actually have drone delivery service on a national scale

Source: Youtube

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