A startup called Zipline will use a fleet of long-distance drones to airdrop precious blood and medicines to remote medical facilities across Rwanda. The potentially life-saving project hints at the potential for unmanned aerial vehicles to revolutionize the delivery of some goods. But it also highlights the fact that drone delivery currently makes most sense only in extreme situations.
Zipline is working with the Rwandan government to create a network of delivery drones that will ferry medical supplies across the country. The network will be capable of making 50 to 150 deliveries per day, using a fleet of 15 aircraft, each with twin electric motors and an almost eight-foot wingspan. The unmanned planes will use GPS to navigate, and will airdrop supplies before returning to the landing strip from which they launched.
It might seem odd that one of the poorest countries in the world should be the first to get a network of delivery drones, especially when companies in the U.S. have been talking up the potential of drones to deliver ordinary goods to households. But strict regulations, safety concerns, and technical challenges make routine package delivery by drone seem far-fetched at the moment.
It’s much easier to make a case for using drones to high-value goods to remote locations. And so the Zipline project is a great demonstration of the real potential of drone delivery.
“This visionary project in Rwanda has the potential to revolutionize public health, and its life-saving potential is vast,” Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said in a statement.
Zipline is also an example of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs looking beyond just building apps and capitalizing on the latest tech trends. “I always think of Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist, who said, ‘They promised us flying cars and all we got was 140 characters,’” Paul Willard, an investor in Zipline, told the Times. “This feels a little bit more like flying cars.”
This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting
With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.
VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence
On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.
This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it.
Greg Rutkowski is a more popular prompt than Picasso.
This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine
Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.