How Zipline Drones Can Save Lives in Rural Rwanda

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@Manali-TiwariManali Tiwari

Freelance Content Writer

Everything is easily accessible when your home is in a city.
Ever thought of people who live in small towns around the cities where they don't have access to basic healthcare services? According to the research of "Our world in data," around 15% of the population lives in rural isolated areas with fewer hospitals and lack of blood and vaccines. In the world of technology where people are still struggling for medicines & blood, Zipline, a Rwanda based company which is founded by Keller Rinaudo, William Hetzler, and Keenan Wyrobek has found a way to solve this problem.
They have invented electric autonomous drones in the shape of an aircraft that can carry medical supplies to people in need, in less time.
The Zipline aircraft was first invented in 2014 with the carrying capacity of 1.6 milligrams, but their latest drone aircraft version - introduced in 2019 -can carry up to 2 kg of medical supplies at a speed of 128 km per hour up to the range of 160 kms round trip.

How it works 

The Zipline distribution center is 20kms outside Kigali (the capital city of Rwanda). Zipline also stores blood and medicines in its distribution center which is delivered to them by the national center of blood transfusion. They can deliver it to hospitals in just 20-30 mins. 
When a hospital is in an emergent need of blood they send a message on WhatsApp to the Zipline team which then takes the blood from their storage and scans it into their systems so that the ministry of blood also has a record of where the blood has been transferred. The blood or medicine is packed in an insulated cardboard box with a small parachute attached to it.
The Zipline aircraft is not always in a ready to launch state, All the parts of Zipline aircraft are detached an assembled on the launcher itself so that it becomes easy for the Zipline team to carry the parts individually. It has 4 parts that need to be assembled before the launch:
  • Cargo compartment - The blood is first placed inside the cargo compartment. It is a kind of storage box where blood or medicine is kept 
  • Wings - After the order is kept inside the fuse lodge, wings of the aircraft are attached to the body of the aircraft.
  • Battery - Once the wings are attached to the aircraft, then the charged battery pack is slotted into the aircraft. 
  • GPS - GPS circuitry is in the battery instead of the plane this way GPS is never off and always connected which saves GPS-satellite connection time.
  1. Once the assembling process is completed Zipline aircraft undergoes pre-flight checks which include checking every control surface with the help of a mobile app.
  2. Each and every control surface of aircraft has a QR code, Zipline technicians scan the QR code of every control surface and then this app runs the computer vision algorithm which results in a pass or fail judgment.
  3. If any control surface fails to pass the pre-flight check than only that control surface is dismantled from the aircraft and is changed. 
  4. When the aircraft passes all the pre-flight checks it is launched using an electric catapult which produces a strong magnetic field to safely get the aircraft up to the speed. It accelerates the plane up to 100 km/hr in just 0.3 secs.
  5. When the aircraft reaches the destination it simply drops the order which with help of parachute comes to the ground and is safely received by the intended person.
  6. Aircraft then returns to the Zipline distribution center, where it is caught with a wire by snagging a 3cm long metal hook on the aircraft tale. Zipline drone landing is one of the most difficult tasks.
Zipline has become one of the most successful tech-for-good companies in the world.
President Kagame poses for a picture with the Zipline team and partners | Muhanga, 14 October 2016. Source: flickr
According to drone.com, Zipline has done 14000 deliveries and saved the lives of millions of people by providing access to healthcare products in rural hospitals. Now Zipline is planning to expand its services to other countries in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and America.
Zipline has shown people how technology if used effectively, can do wonders for every person on the planet. 
How might we all use tech for good in 2020 and beyond?



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