Very quickly drones have gone from a fringe technology to one that is relied on to carry out a variety of important tasks. They have been used to look out for poachers across Africa, join search and rescue missions in Maine, and high-flying drones may soon be used to bring internet to areas without access.
The latest way that drones are helping to improve lives is by delivering needed medical supplies in Rwanda. The nation's government has started a drone delivery program that will get supplies like blood bags to people in rural areas.
Up until now, this aid was brought to people via motorbike, but unpaved and hard to navigate roads can make the journey difficult and long while people wait for necessary medical supplies on the other end. Drones can make these trips quickly and safely, getting people the supplies they need when they need them.
Rwanda is establishing what it's calling a Droneport, a centralized hub for the drones and supplies where deliveries will originate and then be distributed to rural areas for a pilot testing phase.
Soon, the drone services will expand. The government is partnering with American robotics company called Zipline to construct an initial three Droneports in the Muhanga District for delivering blood and other essential medical supplies around the country. Test flights will begin this August and Zipline will operate the Droneports.
Zipline hasn't revealed the specifications of the drones that will be used in this service but it did say that the deliveries will be cheaper than the ones currently made by motorbike meaning more people can be served.
Many companies are looking to receive drone flight permission in countries in Africa for both commercial (Amazon and Google) and non-profit deliveries. Currently, a non-profit called La Fondation Bundi is on its way to establishing a network of drones carrying 44-pound loads of aid supplies around Kenya by 2020.