A revolutionary project is currently underway in Africa. Drones are now being used to deliver healthcare supplies to people living in very remote areas of the world. The utilisation of drones for this purpose is the first of its kind and is likely to be life changing for many people living in remote areas around the world. The drone was developed by Vayu, a company founded to bridge the gap between removed villages and healthcare availability that is often inaccessible.
The drones took two years to be developed as the company felt that they needed to have drones that could operate over long distances for the technology to be valuable. The major obstacle with the technology was balancing the forward flight efficiency with hovering. As drones are 10 times more efficient in forward flight than hovering, the drone was designed in a helicopter fashion, attached to static plane like wings allowing it to land precisely whilst maintaining its longevity in flight.
In early August this year, Vayu, Stony Brook University in conjunction with the Madagascar Government and backing from the US Agency for International Development saw the first ever full autonomous flight with blood and stool samples from rural villages in Madagascar to Stony Brook University’s Centre ValBio research station. Al Jazeera reports that the drones are calculated to make 150 deliveries of blood to 21 facilities each day. For Rwanda, the company Zipline have also been involved in the use of drones to provide healthcare. Zipline estimates Rwanda’s citizens will be guaranteed to have a 15-35 minutes delivery of any medical product they need. The drones have the ability to fly for around 150km and can carry 1.5kg or three bags of blood. This innovative technology could save hundreds of thousands of lives as the infrastructure and technology develops.
It is important that as this technology develops and its use becomes more widespread, the education and training of those administering the medical supplies must also be supported. It is of no utility if healthcare workers in the villages are unable to administer the medical supplies. Stony Brook University Global Health Institute and Vayu are working on a full circle project according to Al Jazeera to train health workers to identify symptoms for various diseases and to administer medicine when it is delivered by drone. Furthermore, for the project to be effective the drones must be able to be used easily by the local communities who have limited exposure or education in using many technological products. Also as drones were and still are used as a weapon for war, the people living in the communities where the projects are taking place must be informed of their purpose. In some instances, it will involve demilitarising their minds.