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article imageUPS exploring drone delivery of medications

By Tim Sandle     Jun 14, 2016 in Technology
Delivery company UPS Partnership is examining the feasibility of using drones to deliver packages of medications into remote regions in Rwanda.
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are being used for a range of non-military operations. The technology used to power drones has become increasingly complex, and drones can now be operated with various degrees of autonomy. This is either under remote control by a human operator, or fully or intermittently autonomously, by on-board computers.
One area where drone technology is being considered is with the transfer of valuable medical supplies to needy areas. Often attempts to deliver medicines, such as by parachute drop, fail. In order to improve the success rate the UPS Foundation is working with a company called Zipline. Zipline is a California-based robotics start-up company. Also in the partnership is a firm Gavi, which deals with blood and vaccines.
Each company brings a degree of expertise: UPS includes in its specialties the delivery of healthcare products; Zipline builds drones; and Gavi has experience of working in developing nations.
The initial focus is the Republic of Rwanda, which has been beset by recent military conflicts. Rwanda is located in central and east Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland. The country carries the legacy of ethnic tension between the Tutsi minority and the majority Hutus, stemming from conflict during the 1990s. A further feature, partly the result of the war legacy, is the lack of a developed healthcare system or transport infrastructure.
The drones will be under the control of the Rwandan government and the trial will test out the delivery of blood from transfusing facilities to areas where the blood is needed. Each drone will make around 150 deliveries per day. One key use of the blood will be to hospitals to provide support of women giving birth (Africa has a disproportionately high number of deaths due to postpartum hemorrhaging.)
Other cargoes will include vaccines and other medicines. These will be targeted at remote communities, such as carrying anti-malarial treatments. The video below provides further details about the scheme:
This has led to a USP backed program to examine the delivery of medicines, where UPS have put forward $800,000 in funding. Commenting on this, Eduardo Martinez, President of The UPS Foundation, said to Lifescience Logistics magazine: “UPS is always exploring innovative ways to enhance humanitarian logistics to help save lives, and we’re proud to partner with Gavi and Zipline as we explore ways to extend the Rwandan government’s innovations at a global scale.”
Based on the potential success, Drones 4 Agriculture (@UAV4Ag) tweeted about support from an intentionally renowned architect: "Norman Foster explains how #drones in #Rwanda could foster change . Watch!"; also supporting the scheme ius industry group Harbec (@HarbecInc) , who tweeted: "#Rwanda will get world’s first network of delivery #drones | Plastics Today"
More about Drones, Rwanda, Medicine, Developing world, Development
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