To overcome Rwanda's challenging topography, the local government and a U.S. start-up launch a drone delivery service that will drop much needed blood bags to remote hospitals. Roselle Chen reports.
Rwandan doctors stranded without vital blood supplies will soon be helped by an important new ally in their fight to save lives: drone deliveries. Robotics company Zipline has started using drones to deliver blood to far-flung clinics in the East African nation dubbed The Land of a Thousand Hills. Keller Rinaudo is Zipline's CEO. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZIPLINE CEO, KELLER RINAUDO SAYING: "What we are doing here in Muhanga distribution center, it is actually the world's first drone delivery distribution center. From this center, we can deliver the blood to 21 transfusion facilities, it is half of the transfusion facilities in the country of Rwanda. The country delivers about 65,000 units of blood per year, 50 percent of that is for women suffering from post-partum hemorrhaging during birth and 30 percent is for kids under the age of five who are suffering from severe anemia due to malaria. So the blood, it is incredibly urgently needed, and this is the way it will deliver blood, about 10 times as fast as the existing solution." The drones are fired into the air using a catapult and deliveries are made using a biodegradable parachute. Zipline helps to provide rarer blood types to hospitals that don't usually keep it in stock. Its long-term goal is to deliver urgently needed medical products like vaccines, anti venom medicine, and necessary medication when a patient's life is in danger.