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Tanzania Partners with Zipline to Launch World’s Largest National Drone Delivery Network

BY Zacc Dukowitz
24 August 2017

Drone delivery company Zipline has been on our radar for some time now as a great example of drones doing good in the world. In case you haven’t heard of them, Zipline is a drone delivery company that focuses on medical deliveries, carrying blood and medical supplies to rural, hard-to-reach places via sUAS.

A while back we wrote about Zipline’s success in raising $25 million to provide drone deliveries for medical supplies in Rwanda, and today Zipline is making news again for their partnership with the Tanzanian government to create the world’s largest national drone delivery network.

Zipline Muhanga Overview

About the Delivery Network

Today Tanzania announces the launch of the world’s largest drone delivery service to provide emergency on-demand access to critical and life-saving medicines.

Starting in the first quarter of 2018, the Tanzanian government will use drones to make up to 2,000 life-saving deliveries per day (!) to over one thousand health facilities, serving 10 million people across the country.

zipline-drone-deliveries

Here are some quick facts about Tanzania’s drone delivery network:

  • Four distribution centers
  • More than 100 drones total
  • Up to 2,000 flights a day possible
  • 10 million to be served throughout Tanzania
  • Materials to be delivered include blood transfusion supplies, vaccines, HIV medications, anti-malarials, and critical medical supplies such as sutures and IV tubes

With this launch, East Africa can now claim the title of world leader in drone deliveries. That is pretty darn cool.

Our vision is to have a healthy society with improved social well being that will contribute effectively to personal and national development. Working with Zipline will help make that vision a reality.

– Dr. Mpoki Ulisubisya, Permanent Secretary of the Tanzania Ministry of Health

The first distribution center, located in Dodoma, the country’s capital, will begin its first flights in the first quarter of 2018. Three additional distribution centers—two in the northwestern corner of Tanzania near Mwanza and Lake Victoria, and one in the Southern Highlands near Mbeya—will follow, working in close collaboration with civil and military aviation authorities.

Each of the four distribution centers will be equipped with up to 30 drones and is capable of making up to 500 on-demand delivery flights a day. The drones can carry 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometers an hour (68 mph), and have a round trip range of 160 kilometers (99.4 miles).

How Does It Work?

Health workers place delivery orders by text message and receive their package within 30 minutes on average. Zipine’s drones take off and land at the distribution center only, requiring no additional infrastructure at the clinics it serves. Deliveries happen from the sky, with the drone descending close to the ground and air dropping the medicine to a designated spot near the health centers.

Watch this video of a Zipline delivery drone in action

The drones and delivery service that will be used in Tanzania are built and operated by Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company.

Here are Zipline delivery drones taking off and landing in Half Moon Bay, CA:

Take off

Landing

Using drones for just-in-time deliveries will allow us to provide health facilities with complete access to vital medical products no matter the circumstance.

– Laurean Bwanakunu, Director General of Tanzania’s Medical Stores Department

In October of 2016, Zipline and the Government of Rwanda launched the world’s first national drone delivery service to make on-demand emergency blood deliveries to transfusion clinics across the country. Since the October launch, Zipline has flown more than 100,000 km in Rwanda, delivering 2,600 units of blood over 1,400 flights.

The Problem

Throughout both the developed and developing world, access to life-saving and critical health products is hampered by what is known as the last-mile problem: the inability to deliver needed medicine from a city to rural or remote locations due to lack of adequate transportation, communication, or supply chain infrastructure.

More than two billion people cannot access the medicine they need to survive. But supply is not just a developing world problem. It’s a global issue, and the result is often that someone in need of lifesaving care does not receive the medicine they need.

Zipline’s Solution

It’s difficult to predict where a patient will be when they need medicine, and to strike a balance in rural areas between being well-stocked and being overstocked (and therefore wasteful). Zipline’s solution is to provide on-demand emergency medical deliveries, which allow for addressing emergencies in real time without the delays incurred when deliveries are made on the ground.

Countries across east Africa are leading the world in developing cutting edge solutions to the last-mile problem by pioneering on-demand drone delivery of life-saving medicine.

Millions of people across the world die each year because they can’t get the medicine they need when they need it. But it’s a problem we can help solve with on-demand drone delivery. And African nations are showing the world how it’s done.

– Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline

Leading global health researchers from the Ifakara Health Institute and the University of Glasgow will evaluate the impact of Tanzania’s drone delivery service on the clinics it will serve in Dodoma. The evaluation research will be supported by the Human Development Innovation Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Saving Lives at Birth, an initiative led by the US Agency for International Development.

Zipline’s commercial partnerships with Rwanda and Tanzania are expected to save thousands of lives over the next several years. Zipline is hard at work catching up to demand to expand drone delivery services to countries across the world throughout 2018.

About Zipline

Zipline is an automated logistics company based in California. The company—which includes seasoned aerospace veterans from teams like SpaceX, Google, Boeing, and NASA—designs and operates an autonomous system for delivering lifesaving medicine to the world’s most difficult to reach places.

Zipline’s long-term mission is to build instant delivery for the planet, allowing medicines and other products to be delivered on-demand and at low cost without using a drop of gasoline.

Zipline is supported by some of the smartest investors in the world, including Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Subtraction Capital, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and Stanford University.

Zacc Dukowitz

Contributing Writer

A writer with professional experience in education technology and digital marketing, Zacc Dukowitz is passionate about reporting on the drone industry at a time when UAVs can help us live better lives. Zacc also holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and is a widely published fiction writer. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John's College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or check out zaccdukowitz.com to read his work.

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