Dial a drone for blood

A woman in childbirth is dying, a health worker sends a hurried SMS asking for blood.

Tanzania, like many countries, is always short on blood donations — so what happens if this dying woman is hours from the nearest hospital, which may or may not even have the blood she needs?

Need blood? Dial a drone. Photo: contributed/ Zipline

Drones flying at 100 km/h will soon be able to deliver blood and medical supplies from a base in Dodoma and reach the dying woman in 19 minutes.

It’s estimated that the average blood delivery in Tanzania currently takes 110 minutes.

Sounds too good to be true? American startup Zipline, which is partnered with the Ifakara Health Institute, says plans are underway to have the drones operational early this year.

“Flights are planned to start in early 2017, and when they do it is estimated that [the drones] could support over 50,000 births a year,” says a spokesperson for the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFid), which is funding the venture.

The spokesperson also estimates that using drones could save up to $58,000 USD (126 million TSH) compared to sending blood by car or motorcycle.

Zipline is also partnered with the Government of Rwanda to deliver all blood products for twenty hospitals and health centers.

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