World’s Fastest Delivery Drone Starts Lifesaving Flights

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It is very challenging to provide medical assistance to hospitals and patients in distant and remote areas. Emergency scenarios such as an urgent requirement for a blood transfusion call for immediate access to lifesaving supplies.

Conventional methods of emergency transport like an ambulance can have various obstacles including traffic conditions and accessible roads to even remote areas.

Delivery drones can become real game changers in such circumstances. In Rwanda, a Silicon Valley start-up called Zipline, is using drones in medicine to make timely drop-offs of emergency supplies to clinics and hospitals all over the country.

Zipline started flying what it calls as fastest delivery drones, or Zips, in the world and is fast expanding its operations to include United States by the end of 2018.

Zips are small, fixed-wing drones that swoop in and drop off emergency medical supplies over their delivery zones by means of a parachute. Why they are termed as the fastest delivery zones is because they travel at speeds up to 80 miles per hour and can travel to a range of 99 miles round trip.

Zipline drones CEO and co-founder Keller Rinaudo said that the deliveries carried out by Zips are four times faster than a typical quad copter drone and they can cover delivery areas up to 200 times larger. He added that rather than delivering sneakers and carrying smoothies, they are more focusing on carrying out delivery of lifesaving medical supplies.

However, how fast can delivery drones like Zips will carry out their tasks will completely depend on how swiftly the processing can be completed. As with the case of Zipline, they have automated almost all the delivery process between each of their centres. Checks for ground flights and the air traffic control that is required to care of drones returning after delivery are all taken care of through this automated processes.

All that has to be taken care of by people working at the distribution centres is just load these hospital drones with the package and swap fresh batteries. The drone parts also need to be removed for regular maintenance which is again automated by a computer. All that the hospital staff need to do is just send orders by text messages to Zipline.

The time between the placing of order and delivery by the drone is sometimes as less as just 10 minutes. Again, speedy turnarounds mean more number of daily flights that can range from 50 to even 500.

Rather than simply focusing on supplying blood, the San Francisco Bay Area start-up also has plans to expand its deliveries to include emergency medicines like anti-venom to immediately treat snake-bites, drugs for HIV patients and rabies treatment drugs for those bitten by dogs and other animals.