Amazon may be testing drone delivery for everything from phone cases to toilet paper, but it isn’t delivering the lifesaving material that Zipline is in Africa: Blood.
Blood transfusions are vital for savings lives.
In fact, blood transfusions are the most common procedure performed in hospitals, required for everything from surgery, emergency trauma and childbirth.
But getting fresh blood to the people who need it requires a unique logistical balance between storage and speed.
In the video above, we see how one company is working in the Sub Saharan African countries of Rwanda and Ghana to speed up and reduce the price of blood deliveries.
Using a hub and spoke model, blood is stored in a few centralised launch centres across the countries. From here, hospitals can order blood as required (via email, phone, text, whatapp, whatever works best for them), at which point the company will pack a delivery into an electric drone which is assembled by hand and launched using a catapult, which will self-guide itself to the hospital and drop off the delivery using a cushioned box via parachute.
The delivery may land on the ground, but it is unharmed.
Apparently, in most cases the blood arrives within about 15 minutes, which is faster than it takes a pizza to be delivered in almost any city in a developed country.
Innovation through simplification
I think this is an excellent example of a disruptive innovation, using technology (drones) which has accellerated development significantly in the last decade, but removing some features to make it more robust, reliable, cheaper and faster to implement than the most advanced models.
After all Amazon, Google and Boeing may all be developing fully autonomous drones which can deliver to a precise GPS location and use cameras and sensors with AI to determine places to land, but those additional complications have prevented the technology from getting approval to be implemented yet. In this case, Zipline’s simpler drones are good enough for their duty, and are still improving over time.
Who knows what applications they may come up with next.
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