Rwanda made headlines as the first country to pilot blood deliveries by drone.
However, President Paul Kagame has not been credited enough with improving the Rwandan health system with the use of drones. The drones have been improved on and will increase deliveries from 50 to 500.
Technology can save lives and this is a reality in Rwanda where drones are used to deliver medical supplies in remote areas.
In February 2016, Rwanda Government hired Zipline Inc- a California-based robotics firm to build the drone port in Shyogwe Sector, Muhanga District – Southern Province in a bid to improve accessibility to blood and emergency medical supplies to remote parts of the country.
The method of transporting blood using drones in Rwanda goes as far back as two years ago. Zipline, the world’s first commercial drone delivery service has over time distributed 7000 units of blood covering over 300,000 km. A journey that would probably take three hours by road has been reduced to six minutes. Rwanda is the first country to make use of this service which has proven to be a lifesaver for mothers and children.
In a Times magazine interview, Keller Rinaudo the co-founder of Zipline said, “The reality is, moms die in every country in the world for (lack of blood). Rwanda was just the first country to do something about it.”
The initiative to open Rwanda’s skies for commercial drones is expected to attract more investors in the Unmanned Civil Aircraft System industry. Unlike neighbouring Kenya that recently put stringent laws against drones, including having to write to the ministry of defense to get permission to fly drones due to national security concerns, Rwanda is making use of what technology can help its people.
Zipline recently announced the development of a new model that would help increase deliveries from 50 to 500. The company has been working on the new version of the drone for the past year. The new drone has the capacity to travel at a speed of 128km per hour. The support of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has been a huge boost to the use of drones for medical services.
Speaking at the inauguration of Zipline’s first distribution center in Rwanda,President Kagame said “This use of unmanned commercial drones to transport essential medical products is a milestone for Rwanda in many respects. Rwandans have learned to embrace innovation, especially when it is clear, that it can help us solve the challenges we face”.
“This attitude has enabled us to overcome great odds in the last twenty-two years, and makes us optimistic about how much more we can achieve, by working together with good partners.It starts with the right mindset, to get things working properly. ‘Good enough’ is no longer enough. We need to aim for the best,” Kagame noted.
In a TED talk, Rinaudo said, “Maternal health is a challenge everywhere. The main difference is that Rwanda was the first country to use radical technology to do something about it. And that’s the reason this attitude of Africa being disrupted or advanced technology not working here or needing aid is so totally wrong. Africa can be the disrupter. These small, agile, developing economies can out-innovate large, rich ones. And they can totally leapfrog over the absence of legacy infrastructure to go straight to newer and better systems.”
Tanzania is following closely behind Rwanda in the use of drones to provide medical services to those in far flung areas of the country.