Doctors at health clinics in rural Rwanda can call or text a distribution centre if they need blood for emergency transfusions. Half an hour later, a drone will show up with plasma and platelets.
The system has been in place for the last 18 months. This year, the startup behind it, Zipline, will likely begin testing its drones in the United States (US), says a report by Fast Company.
The US’ Federal Aviation Administration is expected to approve several drone pilot projects run by state and local governments in the coming weeks. Medical delivery drones could be particularly helpful in rural America, where dozens of hospitals have closed since 2010 and hundreds of others are at risk of closing. Rural residents, who tend to be sicker than the rest of the country, rely on the smaller clinics that remain. For them, drones could ensure that those clinics have access to necessary supplies. The drones would be faster, cheaper and more reliable than delivering the supplies in a van or car.
“There’s a lot that [the US] can be doing better,” says Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline. “And that’s what we think is ultimately the promise of future logistics and automated logistics. It’s not delivering tennis shoes or pizza to someone’s backyard. It’s providing universal access to healthcare when people need it the most.”
The company recently redesigned its entire system to make it faster and able to serve more people each day. This will be critical in the US, where the population is nearly 30 times greater than Rwanda. “In larger countries, you’re going to need distribution centers and logistics systems that are capable of doing millions of deliveries a day rather than hundreds or thousands,” he says.
If the FAA approves pending proposals as expected, Zipline will begin working with a small group of states to lay out safety plans, and then begin flying by the end of the year.
This article originally appeared here