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zipline

Pilot program aims to use drones to drop medical supplies in isolated areas

zipline

Credit: Zipline

Zipline, a San Francisco startup, wants to disrupt the way the medical sector handles emergencies in remote areas of the nation. The company wants to use autonomous flying drones, which are fast and very precise, to drop medical supplies in where they’re most needed but take too long to reach using conventional emergency services.

When you need medical supplies, you need them immediately

Still pending FDA approval, Zipline is currently partnering Ellumen and ASD Healthcare as well as the non-profit organization Bloodworks Northwest to this aim. So far, $19 million of venture capital have been poured into the project by companies like Google or Sequoia Capital, signaling that not only big money but big people are behind this idea.

Since 2014, Zipline has been operational in Rwanda where it currently has contracts with 20 hospitals and health care centers to provide blood.

“One delivery, one life saved. It’s that simple,” Zipline states at its website. 

Tests will be made in Smith Island, Maryland and the Pyramid Lake Tribal Health Clinic in Nevada, but the primary focus will be Africa which severely lacks infrastructure.

The company’s flagship product is the Zip, a UAV that’s designed to carry vaccines, medicine, and blood to rural areas. Moreover, the crafts are designed to fly as reliably as possible borrowing safety features from conventional aerospace.

Integrated is the Zip service which allows a health worker to order supplies via the internet or text messaging. Meanwhile, teams are on standby to load the drones with the requested cargo and ship them out ASAP. Once in the air, the Zip drone can cruise at speeds of up to 60 mph. Considering it can move over any terrain, the drone is faster than any conventional emergency medical mode of transportation. Once at the drop zone, Zip lands and delivers its supplies.