Thursday, October 20, 2016

Drone Projects Moving into Reality for Delivering Important Freight to Remote Communities

Transport of Critical Medical Supplies Underway by Mini Air Freight System
Shipping News Feature
RWANDA The proposed use of drones by delivery companies such as Amazon and DHL has received plenty of publicity regarding the feasibility of their use as ‘final-mile’ delivery systems, many versions of which we have looked upon somewhat doubtfully, with the occasional exception when the destination was outside the normal urban environment. Meanwhile, in Rwanda, one company has implemented a drone delivery service that it says will save hundreds, possibly thousands of lives, and which may actually be a feasible solution to a tricky supply chain problem.

Zipline is working with the Rwandan government to deal with health issues in remote parts of the country. The company’s ‘Zip’ drone is a small robot air plane capable of 100 kilometres/hour with a range of around 150 kilometres and can deliver parachute payloads of blood for transfusion or critical medicines, to remote clinics. Due to the poor infrastructure and rough terrain of the country such deliveries would take days, or not even be possible by road, but drones can get their precious consignments through in minutes.

The drone is launched via a catapult from its base and drops its cargo on a pre-programmed GPS point. It also is capable of relaying tracking information to its home base and air traffic control. By flying below 500ft it stays below the altitude of other aircraft and, in a statement, the company says:

“More than two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products, often due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure. Because of this over 2.9 million children under age five die every year. And up to 150,000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each year if mothers had reliable access to safe blood.

“A health worker can place an order by text message. Within minutes, a Zip is prepared and launched into the sky. Racing along a Zip arrives faster than any other mode of transport, no pilot required. The medical products are then dropped off, landing gently and accurately at the health facility in an open area the size of a few parking spaces. One delivery, one life saved. It's that simple.”

Photo: The moment of release as the parachute starts its descent to earth.