California, US-based company Zipline has announced the launch of a programme to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver medicine and blood to remote areas of the US. Zipline has been operating a similar operation in remote areas of Rwanda and is aiming to adapt the programme for rural communities in Maryland, Nevada and Washington.
The company launched in 2014 and started delivering medicine and blood in Rwanda in July 2016. Due to the US taking longer to draw up regulations on UAVs, it has taken longer for Zipline to become operational in the US.
The breakthrough came in February, said Zipline, when, after the announcement of their initial programme in Rwanda, the White House reached out to the company and expressed an interest in bringing its expertise to the US. Zipline has also partnered with healthcare companies Ellumen, ASD Healthcare and Bloodworks to make the programme a possibility.
Zipline’s founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo told technology website The Verge: “When you look at rural or isolated communities, particularly Native American populations, populations that live on islands, you have serious health outcome inequalities. There’s a linear relationship between how far away you live from a city and your expected lifespan. So our hope is that this type of technology can solve those kinds of inequalities.”
The company claims the drones, called Zips, are able to carry up to three pounds of blood or medicine, and can fly up to 75 miles on a single charge. They use GPS to navigate and deliver the blood or medicine to the patient via a parachute.