Medical drone delivery project to begin in Rwanda

Delivery drones are being used in anger from July, this time delivering medical supplies in Rwanda. US company Zipline is to start operating the service in partnership with the government of the African country.

Zipline will use 15 drones, which have twin motors and a 3.5lb payload. They are more like airplanes than helicopters, and this will give them a greater range as less energy is put into lift and more into forward motion. It will also allow the drones to fly in stronger winds than their helicopter – type delivery drone alternatives.

The drones will drop their packages by paper parachutes over a drop zone as opposed to hovering over the landing zone or landing. This will increase speed of delivery and with the padded packages should do the job with minimal damage. This is not the way the likes of Amazon would deliver their packages as there would be a greater risk of misappropriation or damage to the goods.

The drones will then fly back to the “drone port” where they can be prepared for their next mission, with a flight plan stored on the SIM card and a new battery for the flight.

The company signed a contract with the government to operate the new service in February. A small Zipline team will be based in a city near Kigali to oversee the service as part of the deal.

The company hopes that the project in Rwanda could be a first step in creating a worldwide drone delivery network, that could reach beyond medical and aid purposes.

Where drone delivery is often seen as a fad and a publicity stunt, there do seem to be very good uses for the UAV systems. The aid / emergency medical supplies route does seem to be one of those, and could help develop technology in this sector as it does.