How Drones Are Impacting World Healthcare

One of the most important issues we face today is global accessibility to healthcare.

The WHO recently revealed that at least half of the world’s population isn’t able to access essential healthcare services. With large numbers of others being drawn into poverty by healthcare bills. According to the report, as covered by Reuters, there are 800 million people across the world that spend at least 10% of their household income on healthcare. A staggering 100million of those left with less than $1.90 a day to survive on.

Healthcare is a basic human right. Healthcare poverty is an issue facing so many people – we need to do something about it. Basic healthcare and medical attention should not be perceived as a luxury, but this is, unfortunately, a harsh reality for many. Death rates are much higher for people living in rural areas, not surprisingly, because of the lack of access to care and distances from emergency services.

What if there was a way for medical supplies, life-saving drugs or urgently needed blood donations or vaccines to reach people in need, regardless of where they are?

This was the dream CEO Keller Rinaudo had when setting up Zipline, a drone delivery service for global public health. Using drones operating at a national scale in East Africa, they are saving lives by delivering supplies to some of the most remote places on the continent.

Delivering blood to hospitals and health centres around Africa, they are making a huge difference to Africa’s rural populations. The shelf life of blood, and storage requirements of transporting blood can be tricky. However, more blood can be kept in a centralised location and delivered via drone using Zipline. Blood expires when being stored at hospitals, however, Zipline has helped achieve zero waste for those using their services.

How does it work? WhatsApp is used by a doctor or nurse to let the centralised location know what is required, it is then packed right away and launched from the main site. They have recently claimed that the drones boast a top speed of 128 kilometres an hour. The packages are dropped from 30 feet using a small parachute to safely travel down to the ground in the same delivery place each time. The staff will get a text to alert them to the delivery, just like when we get an Uber alert that our driver is outside!

Using the infrastructure built by drone delivery technology, it can roll out the technology to benefit the area in other areas. This will create new opportunities in agriculture and industry. The company has garnered a lot of attention given the success it has seen in Africa. This has led to plans of a new fixed-wing aerial robot planned to roll out to rural America too.

With many companies looking to use technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for good causes, this use of drones could hopefully influence other similar companies to follow in its footsteps.

As Rinaudo told The Verge earlier this year, “If you have instant delivery for hamburgers,” he says, “you should have instant delivery for medicines.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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