In a new venture, aerial drones are being used to deliver blood supplies to remote areas of Africa. Previously, drones have been put to all sorts of uses, including fighting wildfires, inspecting pipelines and spying on poachers. And now they’re helping save lives. In 2016, a Silicon Valley start-up company began using its drones to deliver blood in the East African nation of Rwanda.
The drones are constructed by Zipline in Half Moon Bay, California, and the battery-powered machines look like small planes and weigh around 25 pounds. The drones fly at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour. They can deliver up to four pounds of blood or other medical supplies over distances of up to 50 miles.
In areas with few or poor roads, the drones can deliver their precious cargo more rapidly than trucks or cars, dropping the supplies via parachute when they reach their destination and then returning to their launch site for reuse.
According to Dr. V.J. Periyakoil, an associate professor of medicine at the Stanford University Medical Center, drones represent an opportunity to bring critical medical services to people or clinics in remote parts of the country.