Meds Overhead: New Drone System Delivers Blood & Medical Supplies To Remote Areas

Recently we discussed what might happen if drones begin making commercial deliveries inthe United States.  The attendant surveillance and sky-traffic might make things a little weird, particularly in urban areas.  However, it’s important to note that non-commercial drones could make some very important deliveries out beyond where traditional services usually roam…

But will it get chased by vampire bats?
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According to, a new drone program called “Zipline” could soon help to bring medical supplies (including blood) to remote areas in times of emergency.  Rural communities in the states of Washington, Maryland, and Nevada (including Native American reservations) could be tremendously aided by the initiative.

Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s founder and CEO, explained, "When you look at rural or isolated communities, particularly Native American populations, populations that live on islands, you have serious health outcome inequalities…There’s a linear relationship between how far away you live from a city and your expected lifespan. So our hope is that this type of technology can solve those kinds of inequalities."

Death from above?  Not these drones...
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Zipline, which launched in 2014 after being partially funded by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, had gotten its start delivering blood and medical supplies in Rwanda.  It is expected to be operational across half of that nation by the end of August, and is also looking to expand to other parts of East Africa.

These little air-ambulances get the job done!
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UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have become the “flying cars” we dreamed of for the future…just not with us as passengers.  However, current FAA rules still mandate that all drones remain in sight of their operators.  Zipline is working in conjunction with the White House to obtain a waiver for this law, with the intent of being operational in America within six months.

No parking spaces or fancy runways needed!
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The UAVs, known as “Zips”, can tote three pounds of blood or medicine through the air, and can fly up to 75 miles on a single electric charge.  Their navigation systems rely on GPS and cellular networks for accuracy.  Deliveries can be ordered by text message from approved hospitals, and can arrive within 30 minutes – even better than pizza.

While India has a similar medical-drone delivery system for organs, and the ladies of Ghana can obtain birth control via UAVs, the medical-drone concept is still a relatively new one in the U.S.  However, with an overwhelmed health care system and difficulty of medical access for a striking number of citizens, this new system could help level the field of caregiving.  And best of all, they’re not “levelling the field” like some other, less care-oriented drones do.

The little blood-drop icon shows where the drones will be GIVING blood,
not explosively extracting it.
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