| MUHANGA, Rwanda
MUHANGA, Rwanda Oct 14 Rwandan doctors stranded
without vital blood supplies are about to be rescued by an
important new ally in their fight to save lives: drone
Zipline, a California-based robotics company, will launch a
service on Friday using drones to deliver blood to far-flung
clinics, bypassing traffic or washed-out roads in the East
African nation dubbed The Land of a Thousand Hills.
"Our long-term goal is to deliver the entire medical supply
chain. So we plan to deliver vaccines, rabies prophylaxis,
anti-venom, oxytocin as well as a whole host of other medical
products that hospitals might have run out of," said Keller
Rinaudo, a 28-year-old Harvard graduate who is Zipline's CEO.
The 13-kilogram (29-pound) drones can make a round trip of
150 km (93 miles), he said, as a small drone buzzed a crowd of
bystanders on Thursday before dropping a packet of blood to a
waiting nurse in a demonstration.
The drones are fired into the air using a catapult and
deliveries are made using a biodegradable parachute.
Rwanda uses about 650,000 units of blood per year, said
Rinaudo. About half of that goes to mothers who suffer
postpartum bleeding and another third is for children under the
age of five who have malaria-induced anaemia.
Espoir Kajyibwami, medical director of Kabgayi Hospital,
said the service would help provide rarer blood types that the
hospital did not usually keep in stock.
"When we need it we will have it quickly."
Rinaudo said the Rwandan government had signed a deal to pay
for each delivery, but declined to give details.
"It is sustainable investment. It's not philanthropy. And
we think that's really important. If this is going to scale to a
global reach it is important that there will be a successful
The Rwanda scheme is supported by a partnership between
Zipline, global logistics company UPS and Gavi, an
international vaccine alliance supported by governments and
(Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Mark Heinrich)