UPS Inc. has launched a partnership with California-based drone developer Zipline International Inc. to deliver blood supplies to Rwandan health workers, the companies said today.
Zipline, based in San Francisco, makes propeller-driven drone aircraft with roughly five-foot wingspans. Launched from a base in Rwanda, each drone will fly at about 60 miles per hour to its target area before dropping a parcel of medicine that drifts to Earth under a small parachute, according to the company's website.
Atlanta-based UPS will support the plan with an $800,000 grant and shared expertise from its global cold-chain and healthcare-delivery experience. The drones will be able to reach patients in remote communities much faster than delivery over the equatorial African nation's mountainous road network, according to Zipline.
The partners will work with global vaccine supplier Gavi, a Geneva, Switzerland-based organization that fosters public-private partnerships to deliver vaccines to children in impoverished nations with poor road infrastructure.
The Rwandan government will launch the project in August, using Zipline drones to make up to 150 deliveries per day of blood to any of the country's 21 transfusing facilities. These transfusions will be targeted mainly at reducing maternal death due to postpartum hemorrhaging, according to UPS.
If the program is successful, UPS and its partners hope to extend it to include deliveries of vaccines and medicines to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, UPS said.