These are dangerous times for people with chronic health conditions. They often need to visit hospitals for treatment or to collect medication, but during the pandemic that means an increased risk of exposure to coronavirus.
In Africa, a US startup says it is reducing that risk by using drones to deliver medical supplies to local clinics and freeing up hospital beds in the process. Zipline, based in San Francisco, has used drones to deliver blood and medical products to hospitals and health centers in Rwanda since 2016. Last year, it expanded to Ghana and now it wants to accelerate plans to begin deliveries in the United States.
Zipline has two distribution centers in Rwanda and four in Ghana, built to speed up the transport of medical supplies in areas with poor roads and a lack of refrigerated vehicles.
Doctors order products from their phones and drones make the deliveries within a 50-mile range, in an average of 30 minutes, according to Zipline. The drones can carry packages weighing almost 4 pounds (1.8 kilos) and drop them to a designated area on the ground using a simple paper parachute.
Zipline says that it has already delivered over 60,000 units of blood, critical medicines and vaccines for measles, polio and other diseases.