Most people associate drones with recreational flying, military use and even parcel delivery, but recently a company has set its sights on using autonomous drone flight technology to provide medical assistance to hard-to-reach hospitals. Zipline was founded to create a system that helps people by quickly responding to medical needs. The intent is to replace medical supply vehicles that must rely on traversing rough roads. Zipline Hospital’s distribution centers are stocked with medical supplies, blood bags, vaccines, and more. Each contains a fleet of all-electric autonomous drones that can carry 4 pounds of supplies or 3 units of blood.
Once a hospital sends a request to a Zipline distribution center, staff begins the process to ensure supplies are up and running quickly. The electric drones are equipped with a custom navigation system and once a drone is fully loaded and scanned for takeoff, it is catapulted into the air and reaches speeds of up to 100 km/h en route to its destination. The drone is still autonomous, but is still monitored from the distribution center, to ensure that it does not disrupt flights in the area or experience flight problems due to weather conditions or mechanical failures.
When the drone is about to reach the remote hospital, it sends a text message to the recipient. Once it arrives, it drops the medical supplies and begins to return to the Zipline distribution center to get ready for its next flight. Zipline claims its distribution centers cover a 50-mile radius with the ability to reach hospitals in 30 minutes. Zipline’s system has helped people in Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, America and Japan with future plans to build a distribution center in Ireland.
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