-María del Mar Vera-

There are some places of the world were the ability to deliver to remote areas life-saving medicine and other health products such as blood is critical. Also, given the fact that blood requires storage and transport at really safe temperatures, many clinics are not able to keep the blood they may need in stock. On top of that, it should also be taken into consideration that blood may be needed in places where, due to bad weather conditions, roads are unavailable, inaccessible or non-existent at all. Rwanda is one example that collects all these characteristics.

Nonetheless, faith must not be lost on this matter. The world’s first national drone delivery service for life-saving blood has been launched in Rwanda on the 13th of October of this year. This innovative service enables blood transfusion clinics across the Western half of the country to place emergency orders by cell phone text message. Once the order is placed, a distribution centre in Muhanga region sends a drone to the place where it is needed. Nowadays, they maintain a fleet of 15 drones, called Zips.

Even though the drone industry seems to be focused on commercial purposes, the use of drones in disaster relief and humanitarian aid is also being explored. In this concrete case, Zips take off and land at the distribution centre, and make deliveries by descending close to the ground and air dropping medicine to a designated spot called a “mailbox” near the health centres they serve.  Zipline, the manufacturer company, said it will make 50-150 emergency flights a day to 21 transfusion clinics across the Western Half of Rwanda and can fulfil orders in around 30 minutes.

All in all, it is very encouraging to imagine how powerful this finding can be if applied to many other situations related to humanitarian aid, such as inaccessible refugee camps or for the relief after an unexpected earthquake. Moreover, blood could be substitute it by vaccines or medicines than can also be needed in remote places.

Summing up, logistics are a very important factor to be taken into account in most of important procedures entailed all over the world. Nonetheless, when applying the last discoveries to its most humanitarian side, is when it can be seen its crucial role and importance.