Following Suit

The nation of Rwanda recently partnered with a drone company for drone delivery of medical supplies to far-off rural areas. Being the first time drones have been used to deliver medicine, the initiative cemented Rwanda's commitment to drone technology and its many uses.

Now, the United States is looking to explore a similar deal. Zipline, the company the Rwandan government partnered with, is now in a program with the US government to deliver medical supplies to areas in the rural US.


Zipline uses electric-powered drones, called "Zips." The drones could carry up to three pounds of blood or medicine, and could be flown 75 miles on a single charge. Navigation is via GPS and cellular networks.

Hospitals could order their goodie bags via text message and expect the supplies inside packages with parachutes. Like the best pizzerias, the drones will deliver in 30 minutes or less. The short trips mean the items do not require refrigeration.

The drones will be servicing rural and remote communities in Maryland, Nevada, and Washington, including some Native American reservations.

Waving Through

The talks between the drone company and the US government began after the announcement of the Rwandans to adopt the technology. To speed things along, Zipline will apply for a waiver to FAA regulations, and commence operations six months after the issuance of the waiver. Zipline has partnered with three health care companies — Ellumen, ASD Healthcare, and Bloodworks for this initiative.

Other drone companies have also succeeded in penetrating the US drone market. Flirtey has flown the first FAA-approved drone delivery after flying drugs to a medical center in rural Virginia. Matternet is also looking at medicine delivery for its drones.

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