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Drones to deliver medical supplies in Rawanda

UPS Foundation, Zipline and Gavi develop program to deliver blood supplies to remote areas

Drones to deliver medical supplies in Rawanda
A fleet of Zipline drones will deliver blood supplies to 21 transfusion centres across Rwanda.

A new Public-Private partnership is exploring the use of drones to deliver medical supplies to remote areas.

The UPS Foundation, the charitable foundation funded by courier company UPS, is working with robotics company Zipline and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to test drone delivery of blood supplies, vaccines and other medicines to rural areas.

The pilot project, which has received a $800,000 grant from the UPS Foundation, will focus on transporting blood supplies to transfusion centres in Rawanda. The Rwandan government will use Zipline drones to make up to 150 deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusion facilities located in the western half of the country.

Medical workers will be able to order blood supplies by SMS, and a drone will be launched within minutes. The drone then flies at up to 100km/h to the delivery site, where the supplies are dropped by parachute.

The PPP is intended to draw on UPS' experience in logistics, cold chain and healthcare delivery with Zipline's drone network capabilities and Gavi's medical expertise.

"Public-private partnerships are the key to solving many of the world's challenges, with each partner contributing its unique expertise," said Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer at UPS. "UPS is always exploring innovative ways to enhance humanitarian logistics to help save lives, and we're proud to partner with Gavi and Zipline as we explore ways to extend the Rwandan government's innovations at a global scale."

"Our partnership with UPS and Zipline is an exciting step into a new territory for the delivery of medical supplies," added Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. "It is a totally different way of delivering vaccines to remote communities and we are extremely interested to learn if UAVs can provide a safe, effective way to make vaccines available for some of the hardest-to-reach children."

"The inability to deliver life-saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year. The work of this partnership will help solve that problem once and for all," said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. "With the expertise and vision of UPS, Gavi and Zipline, instant drone delivery will allow us to save thousands of lives in a way that was never before possible."

Zipline is supported by investors including Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Subtraction Capital, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and Stanford University.

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