“3, 2, 1, launch!” Kicked off by a ramp, white with red wings buzzing drone in the air towards the Kabgayi hospital, in western Rwanda , located two kilometers away.
Earlier this week, Rwanda presented to the press its first base drones will be used to deliver the batches of blood in twenty-one clinics in the western half of the country.
This base, located in Muhanga, 50 kilometers west of the Rwandan capital Kigali, was to beinaugurated Friday in the presence of President Paul Kagame.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the African has the maternal mortality rate the highest in the world due to postpartum haemorrhage. Access to blood transfusions is crucial for women on the continent.
The Rwanda is no exception and the topography of the “land of a thousand hills” makes the long and difficult route by road from this vital and perishable, especially during the rainy season.
Delivery between 15 to 30 minutes
Blood “is a very precious so it is not possible to simply store in large quantities in each centerhealth” of the country, told AFP Keller Rinaudo, CEO of US-based robotics Zipline, who designed the base and fifteen drones that will be used by the Rwandan government.
This system “will allow the Rwandan government to provide instantly vital blood transfusions to any citizen in the country in 15 to 30 minutes” , he assures.
The project Zipline is conducted in collaboration with the international alliance Gavi created in 2000 to facilitate the vaccinations in the world and the UPS Foundation, which injected $ 1.1 million (€ 1 million) in the partnership.
The Rwandan government outsources the supply of these blood bags to Zipline, for a more or less equivalent to the cost of delivery by road, assures the American company who declined to give more details.
The drones named “Zips” in the shape of a small plane about two meters wide. They run on electricity with batteries and have a range of about 150 km. Each drone weighs 13 kg and cancarry a cargo of about 1.5 kilos, three blood bags.
After having been propelled to 80 km / h in half a second with a launching pad, UAVs canreach the 70 km / h in flight and perform up to 150 deliveries per day autonomously, each way being pre-recorded in the device.
Under a tent, Zipline technicians are busy in front of laptops and employees assemble small red cardboard boxes topped with kraft paper parachute, designed to contain the blood bags and will be dropped by aircraft 20 meters above the ground.
A second base in 2017
In a white prefabricated, refrigerators, a freezer and a blender waiting to receive bags of blood, blood plasma and platelets. Behind the fence surrounding the base and lined with banana, dozens of curious residents are gathering to attend the tests.
Current 2017, a second base should be built allowing the drone cover all the 26 000 km 2 of the smaller countries of the Great Lakes.
“These are flights that will save lives,” enthuses Gregg Svingen responsible for UPS communication. “Today it is the blood, tomorrow it will be vaccines” , he says, explaining that this project could be exported to other countries.
Source: The Monde.fr