Drones have been gaining prominence among the general population these past few years, being able to do an array of tasks such as capturing aerial videos and pictures, or to transport lightweight items over far distances in a short period of time. While most drone pilots use their drones for photography, some have been using them to deliver items, including Amazon which is currently testing out Amazon Prime Air in the UK. While Amazon plans to make use of its drones to deliver parcels and packages to customers within 30 minutes, there is a company called Zipline which is currently using drones to deliver medication and blood to rural areas.
Zipline was started back in 2014 with the support of firms such as Google Ventures and Sequoia Partners, as well as funding from the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen. Under a partnership with the government of Rwanda, Zipline started delivering medicine and blood to rural areas in the country last month. The company expects to have its operations expanded to at least half of the country by the end of August. Zipline is only operational in Rwanda at the moment but it expects to bring its services to the US, and expects to be operational within a year. Its drone delivery services will serve rural and remote communities in Nevada, Maryland, Washington and some Native American reservations. While Rwanda has quickly implemented the use of drone technology, the US has been slower to adopt commercial drones. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented new rules back in June that has made it easier for companies to apply for authorization to fly commercial drones but companies are only allowed to fly one mission at a time and the drone must be in the line of sight of the drone pilot at all times.
Zipline makes use of its electric-powered drones called "Zips" to deliver up to three pounds of blood or medicine to a location up to 75 miles away. Blood or medicine can be ordered via text message and a Zip will be dispatched to deliver the package which will be parachuted from the Zip once it arrives at its destination. Blood will not need to be refrigerated as a Zip can deliver it within 30 minutes, navigating to its destination using cellular networks and GPS. For its US launch, Zipline will apply for a waiver to the new FAA regulations, and will likely be operational within 6 months of receiving the waiver. Zipline and its Zips have the potential to change the healthcare scene in the US once it starts operations in the country, being able to deliver much needed medicine to people in rural areas.