Rwanda begins Zipline commercial drone deliveries
Feb 11, 2017: Zipline - the US start-up has started the world's first commercial regular drone delivery service in Rwanda. The operation uses fixed-wing drones that automatically fly to destinations in the central African nation and releases small packages attached to parachutes without needing to land at the delivery points before returning. The technology promises to make deliveries much faster than had previously been possible by road.
Zipline’s drones will initially be used to deliver blood, plasma, and coagulants to hospitals across rural western Rwanda, helping to cut waiting times from hours to minutes.
The aircraft are launched from a catapult and fly below 500ft (152m) to avoid the airspace used by passenger planes. They have an operational range of 150km (93 miles) but could, in theory, fly almost twice that distance.
Powered by a nose-mounted battery, the drones guide themselves using GPS location data and send back information to both their base and to Rwandan air traffic control via a cellular connection.
To begin with, 15 "zips" will fly round the clock and in up to 30km/h (19mph) winds and light rain if necessary.
Zipline will be paid by Rwanda's health department on a per delivery basis.
The cost per trip is roughly equal to that of the current delivery method, by motorbike or ambulance, says the company.
Picture source: Zipline