UPS has partnered with robotics firm Zipline and non-profit organization Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to begin trialing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the delivery of life-saving medicines, such as blood and vaccines, in countries with a poor logistics chain.
According to UPS, critical health products often spoil or fail to reach the individuals who urgently need them. The UPS Foundation has therefore awarded an US$800,000 grant to support the initial launch of this initiative in Rwanda, Africa.
Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer at UPS, said, “Public-private partnerships are the key to solving many of the world’s challenges, with each partner contributing its unique expertise. 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.”
Starting later this year, the Rwandan government will begin using Zipline drones to make up to 150 deliveries of blood per day to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country. According to the world health organization (WHO), Africa has the highest rate in the world of maternal death due to postpartum hemorrhaging, which makes access to lifesaving blood transfusions critically important for women across the continent.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said, “Our partnership with UPS and Zipline is an exciting step into a new territory for the delivery of medical supplies. 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.”
While Rwanda’s national drone network is initially focused on the delivery
of blood supplies, the plan is to expand the initiative to include vaccines, treatments for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and many other essential and lifesaving medicines. It is hoped that the Rwandan drone delivery operation will save thousands of lives over the next three years and could serve as a model for other countries.
Keller Rinaudo, CEO, Zipline, said, “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. 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.”
To view a video of the early drone delivery demonstrations click here.
May 9, 2016