Drugs By Drone In Tanzania

Submitted by admin on Thu, 12/29/2016 - 20:30

UK Government funding is being used to trial ‘drone’-flown medical supply missions out in Tanzania.

The aim of these trials is to really speed up the time it takes to have blood, etc, driven out to Tanzanian health clinics.

Supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Tanzanian blood-by-UAV test is being carried out by Californian start-up Zipline and also involves the Ifakara Health Institute.

Commercial Drone Deliveries

Zipline – made-up of ex-Lockheed Martin, Google and Space X engineers - launched a similar commercial drone deliveries service in another African country, Rwanda, two months ago.

The type of drone Zipline uses is known as ‘Zip’. Catapult-launched, Zip is able to carry blood, medicines or vaccines and, when deployed en masse, can ‘provide for a population of millions’, Zipline says. Travelling at 100 kilometres per hour, it flies no higher than 500 feet, to ensure it remains well out of the way of commercial airline traffic using the same airspace.

Zip Supply Flights

Zip supply flights are a multistage process. Initially, a health worker texts over their order. The Zip drone is then prepared and ready to be dispatched within minutes.

Dropping down to around 16 feet above the target site, the UAV releases its contents, which take the delivery route shown in the accompanying image. The low-level drop height, helped by use of paper parachutes, ensures the blood, medicines or vaccines land gently enough to remain intact. In Zipline’s own words: ‘One delivery, one life saved…It’s that simple’.


This drugs-by-drone approach offers significant time and money savings. From a financial perspective, DFID makes the point that drone-flying medical supplies out of Dodoma – the Tanzanian capital – could prove $50,000 cheaper per annum than standard car or motorcycle-based services.

Timewise, as a Zipline representative tells the BBC: "Flights are planned to start in early 2017, and when they do it is estimated that [the] UAVs could support over 50,000 births a year, cutting down the time mothers and new-borns would have to wait for life-saving medicine to 19 minutes - reduced from the 110 minutes traditional transport methods would take.” The BBC adds that this new initiative has been positively but cautiously received by experts in the field.

Source: CopyBook

Photos: Zipline