Rwanda Readies Life-Saving Drone Delivery System

2016-07-03

Rwanda Readies Life-Saving Drone Delivery System
This summer, small autonomous airplanes will begin carrying life-saving blood to 20 hospitals and healthcare centers across Western Rwanda, Africa, in one of the first-of-its-kind drone-based delivery demonstrations.

The drone delivery system is part of a program envisioned by the Rwandan government, who has contracted with Zipline (a California-based robotics company) to make all last mile blood deliveries to 22 transfusion clinics across the western half of the country.

“We’ve built an instant delivery system for the world, allowing medicines and other products to be delivered on demand and at low cost, anywhere,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo.

Each custom-built drone, called Zip, weighs approximately 10 kilograms and can carry 1.5 kilograms of medicine. According to Zipline, the drones are able to fly 150 kilometers round trip on a single battery charge. Each ‘fleet of 15 Zips will operate from Nests or modified shipping containers that are located next to existing medical warehouses in Rwandas centrally located Muhanga District. The Zips will drop the medical supplies into a designated spot called a mailbox near the health centers.

The Rwandan government expects the drone delivery systems to eventually replace the ground-based medical supply chain that includes off-road vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles, which are unreliable due to lack of infrastructure and frequent flooding during that rainy season.

Separate, though complementary, to the drone program, Zipline, the UPS Foundation, Gavi, a public-private partnership that provides vaccines to poor countries, have formed a partnership to study how Ziplines blood delivery service could be expanded to include other lifesaving medicine.

Kevin Etter, a UPS loaned executive to GAVI, has been working with GAVI for about 18 months to optimize the supply chain process. He said, Theres considerable testing that needs to be done and questions to be answered around speed and temperature control.

Can the delivered supplies be maintained in the cold supply chain? Can they be stored efficiently at the required 2-8°C range? Is it cost-effective as compared to more conventional ground based delivery methods?

We are testing how fast we can deliver the product, he added, and if that timeframe falls within the safe range of refrigeration to ensure quality. Well be testing the efficacy and potency of the delivered product to make sure it complies with the international standard.

Zipline executives believe once the program gets started, its autonomous aircraft will be able to make 50-150 deliveries a day. The firm expects to deliver the first fleet of drones to Rwanda in July 2016 with initial flights beginning in August. The fleet will be operated by engineers from Zipline and Rwanda. As well, Zipline plans to expand the project to the eastern half of the country in early 2017.



FAA Releases Updated Model Aircraft Guidance

2015-09-13
FAA Releases Updated Model Aircraft Guidance

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published updated guidance on model aircraft operations that reflects current law governing hobby or recreational use of unmanned aircraft.

Is Private Airspace Ownership Really Up in the Air?

2015-09-09
Is Private Airspace Ownership Really Up in the Air?
As I write this article, many of my colleagues in the commercial drone industry have focused their attention on the State of California and are anxiously waiting to see if the California Governor will sign or veto SB 142, which recently passed in the California legislature.

Farm drones expected to take off

2015-09-08
Farm drones expected to take off
Every week, an agronomist walks a portion of the 600 acres of crops at the Sunrise Acres dairy to gather information used to fight pests, weeds and other maladies that could threaten the harvest.
It’s a labor-intensive process repeated at farms throughout Wisconsin, and it’s one farmers say could soon become vastly more efficient thanks to drone technology.

Invisible Cloak for Military UAS

2015-09-04
Invisible Cloak for Military UAS
Scientists are working on creating a new design for a technology that redefines what the public views as imaginary. Inspired by the well-known Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter, electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego have created a new design for their cloaking device, using a Teflon substrate, studded with cylinders of ceramic, that is thinner than any prior development and does not alter the brightness of light around concealed objects.

Russia and China are developing drones that could make stealth aircraft obsolete

2015-08-28
Russia and China are developing drones that could make stealth aircraft obsolete
The US and its allies continue to invest heavily in the F-35 and other stealth-capable aircraft. But Russia and China are rapidly developing systems that would negate the benefits that stealth offers.

Five Important Points to Help you Process UAS Integration in the US

2015-08-27
Five Important Points to Help you Process UAS Integration in the US
The FAA’s progress toward the integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into national airspace is slow but on track, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Drones Newest Mission is Disaster Relief

2015-08-11
Drones Newest Mission is Disaster Relief
When aid workers arrived after Typhoon Haiyan hit Southeast Asia in 2013, they brought something new to help the areas battered by rain and gale force winds: unmanned aerial drones.

Folding Drone Unfurls in Fraction of a Second

2015-08-10
Folding Drone Unfurls in Fraction of a Second
Engineering teams around the world are putting significant time, effort and research dollars into the idea of using aerial drones in disaster relief scenarios. It makes a lot of sense: Drones are able to fly into dangerous or inaccessible locations and — outfitted with cameras and communications gear can provide reconnaissance imagery of a disaster site or even make initial contact with survivors.

Unmanned aircraft taking to Texas skies for FAA testing

2014-02-27
Unmanned aircraft taking to Texas skies for FAA testing

Increasing numbers of aircraft are taking to the Texas skies unmanned.

Northwestern Michigan College unmanned drone program lends students unique opportunities

2014-01-27
Northwestern Michigan College unmanned drone program lends students unique opportunities

The U.S. government isn’t expected to open airspace for civilian unmanned drone flight until 2015.


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