Africa. 

How incredible it is to watch the proceedings of nature here, a land of euphoria and everlasting beauty.

But amongst the tranquil scenery and beautiful surroundings, there is a danger. Africa accounts for over 90% of all malaria cases, with millions at risk.

The disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, remains a burden for many communities, especially isolated villages with limited access to healthcare.

The recent Malaria Summit in London called for more funding and for more innovative and novel solutions to stop its spread.

With the increasing resistance to insecticide and various forms of drugs, the race is now on to find a sustainable way to eradicate malaria.

Professor Jake Baum from Imperial College London is working with the likes of Dundee University and GSK to launch a new drug, that prevents mosquitos from spreading the disease.

The pharmaceutical giant, GSK, is also working on a malaria vaccine called RTS,S or Mosquirix. This drug will be going through clinical trials in Africa later this year.

But there are others pieces of technology that could help to eradicate malaria. Perhaps a smartphone to run blood screening software on, perhaps a satellite in outer space, or perhaps a drone.

There are big promises being made with regard to drones at the moment: Amazon boasting about their ability to deliver online goods to the consumer within minutes. Drones are also now widely used in photography and videography, seen as a must-have for any content creator on YouTube.

But drones could do more than just deliver your shopping or produce some cinematic footage, they could save lives.

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Take a listen to this, the African countryside.

Soothing, isn’t it?

Now add a layer of drones, flying over your head.

Not so relaxing now.

Well, this is where Zipline comes in. Their new fleet of drones are fully autonomous and don’t produce much noise, either.

The problem is that more than two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products, such as blood and vaccines, due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure.

Zipline improves access to these supplies by flying over impassable mountains and washed-out roads, delivering directly to remote clinics. The company centralises supply and provide on-demand deliveries, completely reducing waste and stock-outs.

Their latest fleet of drones are silent, and instead of being used to deliver an Amazon order, they are being tested in Rwanda to deliver blood.

Here’s how it works.

A patient is nearing death’s door and urgently needs a blood transfusion.

Medical staff send Zipline an SMS message or a WhatsApp message, ordering a sample of blood from their distribution centre nearby.

Within minutes, the order is processed and the lifesaving medical supplies are packed into a special box, maintaining product integrity.

Then, the health workers receive confirmation that their order has launched. Racing along at over 100 km/h, products arrive faster than any other mode of transport, no pilot is required.

An onboard navigation system guides the drones across the landscape and to its destination.

A Zipline delivery arrives by parachute

Less than thirty minutes later, the package arrives and is delivered gently by parachute into a designed area the size of a few parking spaces. Hospital staff are notified via text message.

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And back home it goes. Zipline only lands at the Distribution Centre for a quick pit stop before taking off again; no infrastructure is required at remote clinics.

Zipline has a capacity of 500 deliveries per day and can deliver in a range of conditions, rain or shine. The drones have a radius of up to 100 miles, meaning that fewer distribution centres are needed.

The drones also have a weight capacity of 1.8kg, meaning that they can deliver a range of medical supplies, from blood to vital vaccines.

There are plans for expansion, too. They’re fully operational in Rwanda, but have plans to operate in Tanzania too.

But, what would happen if the drone loses communication with the distribution centre? Well, the drones are designed to follow the onboard GPS to come back home, so there is no risk of a stray drone floating ominously in the skies.

The company is also researching ways to develop an onboard sense and avoid system to ensure that there are no collisions in the sky.

So not too long in the future, it may be drones that will be the distributor of choice for vital medicines and treatments in Africa.

And the plus side? They won’t make a sound.

For more information on Zipline, head over to their website at www.flyzipline.com

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