Tanzania is partnering with drone logistics house Zipline to develop what the country claims will be the world’s largest drone delivery service to provide emergency on-demand access to critical and life-saving medicines.
Beginning in early 2018, the government will begin using more than 100 drones, each expected to make up to 2,000 life-saving deliveries per day to more than 1,000 health facilities, serving 10 million people across the country.
The service will be built and operated by Zipline, which also launched a national drone delivery service for on-demand emergency blood deliveries to clinics across Rwanda in October of 2016. Since that time, Zipline has flown more than 1,400 flights delivering 2,600 units of blood across the country.
The Tanzanian program will hopefully resolve the inability to deliver needed medicine from a city to rural or remote locations due to lack of adequate transportation, communication or supply chain infrastructure.
“Millions of people across the world die each year because they can’t get the medicine they need when they need it,” says Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline. “It’s a problem in both developed and developing countries. But it’s a problem we can help solve with on-demand drone delivery. And African nations are showing the world how it’s done.”
The program in Tanzania will make on-demand deliveries of blood transfusion supplies, emergency vaccines, HIV medications, anti-malaria medicine and other medical supplies like sutures and IV tubes across the country’s Medical Stores Department (MSD).
Zipline says it will create four distribution centers across Tanzania for the drone program. Each center will be equipped with up to 30 drones capable of making up to 500 on-demand delivery flights a day, carrying 1.5 kilos of cargo. They will have a trip range of about 160 kilometers. Deliveries will take about 30 minutes with orders taking place through text message. The distribution centers will handle the takeoff and landing of the drones, meaning no other infrastructure requirements will be needed.
Delivery drones are beginning to crop up everywhere, including in China with recent trials for last-mile services in the country, drones to deliver drinks in Estonia and drones being used to ship lab samples between two hospitals in Switzerland.