At a recent Cabinet meeting, the Rwanda government agreed to extend its contract with Zipline for another three years for the delivery of medical products via drones. Zipline, a California-based company, has been delivering medical supplies by drone in Rwanda since 2016. As part of the contract renewal, Zipline plans to open a drone assembly plant in Rwanda.
The ability to manufacture their drones on site will enable Zipline to ramp up their delivery service to more hospitals and to provide equipment to the distribution centers more efficiently within the country of Rwanda. Drones will also be able to undergo repairs and maintenance as necessary at the plant.
Zipline Reports Success with Drone Deliveries in Rwanda
Zipline launched operations in Muhanga district, Southern Rwanda, about two years ago as the world’s first commercial regular drone delivery service. The company reported earlier this year that deliveries were going well, with significant benefits to the local health system including an increase in the use of some blood products by 175% and reducing waste and spoilage by over 95%.
Key to their success has been the deployment of autonomous, beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights with the fastest commercial delivery drone on Earth. Zipline’s delivery drone is an autonomous fixed-wing style airplane. The plane is capable of flying at a top speed of approximately 80 mi/h, and a cruising speed of 62 mi/h with a round trip range of 100 miles carrying up to 3.85 pounds of cargo.
Zipline Plans to Build Drone Assembly Plant in Rwanda
During the post-Cabinet meeting news conference, the Health Minister, Dr Diane Gashumba, confirmed that Zipline was due to establish a drone assembling and maintenance plant in the country.
This was confirmed to The New Times by Israel Bimpe, Zipline’s Head of National Implementation.
“Yes that’s true (Zipline is set to build an assembling plant in Rwanda),” Bimpe told The New Times. He added, “Zipline actually has been assembling certain components here in Rwanda, batteries, especially.” —The New Times
The new drone manufacturing plant will add to Zipline’s two distribution centers, one in Muhanga and the other in Kayonza, which will help bring the entire country within range of its life-saving service.
Currently, Zipline’s service is used to deliver blood, plasma, and platelets to 21 hospitals across Rwanda. In an interview with CNBC Africa, Bimpe stated that the company hopes to increase deliveries to more hospitals and to add basic pharmaceuticals on the list of urgent medicines that can be delivered by drones. Watch the interview below.
As of April, 2018, Zipline has delivered 7,000 units of blood over 4,000 flights, approximately a third of which have been in emergency life-saving situations. With the upcoming addition of a manufacturing plant in Rwanda, we expect to see Zipline save more lives with drone deliveries of essential medical supplies.