Believe it or not, drones are used to deliver blood in Africa. Most people think that new technology or advanced technology can never start in Africa. Instead, they think that the best way to help the continent advance is by continuing providing aid or certain services that the continent cannot provide for itself.
So while we see advance technology like robotics and Artificial Intelligence growing exponentially in the developed world, those same people are worried that technologically backward Africa is falling behind but it is a fact that drones are used to deliver blood in Africa. That attitude couldn’t be so wrong in the last 10 years.
In 2014, Keller Rinaudo a robotic entrepreneur who spends a lot of time here in Africa created Zipline, which is a company that uses electric autonomous aircraft to deliver medicine to hospitals and health centers on demand. Last year the company launched the world’s first automated delivery system operating at national scale. This was done in Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame and Rwanda Ministry of Health played a big role signed a commercial contract to deliver the majority of the country’s blood on demand and nothing else the drones are used to deliver blood in Rwanda hospitals.
Using this technology, Rwanda has been able to keep more blood centralized, then provide it when a patient needs it to any hospital or health center in an average of 20 or 30 minutes.
The company has a distribution center which is about 20 Kilometers out of Kigali. So when a patient is having an emergency, a doctor or a nurse at that hospital, send a WhatsApp message, telling the company what they need. The team at the distribution center would immediately spring in to action,pull the blood from the blood bank, which is then scanned into their system so that the Ministry of Health knows where the blood is going, and then it will be packaged in what is known as a Zip, which are these little autonomous airplanes that run on battery.
Once the Zip is ready to go, the aircraft is accelerated using a special mechanism from 0 to 100 kilometers an hour in about half a second. And once it leaves the launcher, the aircraft is completely autonomous. The company’s Air traffic controller, calls it into Kigali International Airport, and when the Zip arrives at the hospital, it descends to about 30 feet and drops the package, by using a really simple paper parachute, that allows the package to gently and reliably land in the same place every time. The Doctors get a text message one minute before the aircraft arrives saying “Walk outside to receive your delivery”.