Friday, August 05, 2016

Startup wants to use drones to deliver medicine to rural and remote communities

Zipline photo: package dropped by a drone
A California start-up company plans to use drones to deliver blood and medicine to rural and remote island and Native Americans communities in Maryland, Nevada and Washington, Amar Toor reports for The Verge, a technology, science, art and culture news outlet operated by Vox Media. The company, Zipline, launched in 2014 with funding from Sequoia Partners, Google Ventures and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and last month began sending similar supplies by drone to Rwanda.

Keller Rinaudo, Zipline's founder and CEO, said that after announcing plans in February to deliver supplies to Rwanda, he was contacted by the Obama administration about bringing his system to rural parts of the U.S., Toor writes. "Zipline will apply for a waiver to the FAA regulations, and expects to begin operating within six months of receiving it." Rinaudo said he hopes to be operational in a year.

"Zipline's electric-powered drones, called 'Zips,' can carry up to three pounds of blood or medicine, and can fly for up to 75 miles on a single charge," Toor writes. "Hospitals can order blood or medicine via text message, and have them delivered by parachute from a Zip. The 22-pound planes navigate using GPS and cellular networks, and can make deliveries within 30 minutes, negating the need for onboard refrigeration."

Rinaudo told Toor, "When you look at rural or isolated communities, particularly Native American populations, populations that live on islands, you have serious health outcome inequalities. There’s a linear relationship between how far away you live from a city and your expected lifespan. So our hope is that this type of technology can solve those kinds of inequalities."

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