Drone delivery services make debut in Rwanda

Oct 14, 2016, 2:32 AM EDT
(Source: Richard Unten/flickr)
(Source: Richard Unten/flickr)

For the first time anywhere in the world, a commercial drone delivery service has been launched in Rwanda, which involves the use of automated, fixed-wing drones to drop small packages at the delivery point. The drones, developed by a U.S. start-up, Zipline, are initially being used to deliver blood, plasma, and coagulants to hospitals across rural western Rwanda. The battery-powered drones, which make use of G.P.S. location data, have an operational range of 150km and can reduce delivery times from hours to minutes.

Under the current project, Rwanda’s health department will pay Zipline for each trip made by the 15 “zips” that will fly round the clock, writes the BBC. According to the developers, the cost of each trip is roughly equal to that of the current delivery method, by motorbike or ambulance.

Experts hail Zipline’s “stay-in-the-air” approach, which means that the drones are not required to touch down at the delivery point. The packages are dropped off attacked to a parachute, which keeps the recipients safe from the rotating blades of the drone.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame praised the technology in a statement, saying that drones can play a vital role in commercial and health sector, reports The Washington Post. However, some aid workers say that general public cannot differentiate between “humanitarian/civilian” drones and bad “military drones,” which makes the use of these devices inappropriate at times.