The rise of delivery drones in Africa

The cutting edge of drone delivery isn’t one of the usual technology hotspots, such as Singapore or the United States. The honor belongs to East Africa.

Drone delivery is finally getting off the ground in Africa.  Zipline, a pioneering drone startup that began delivering blood packs to Rwanda’s remote hospitals in October 2016,  recently announced a major expansion into Tanzania. In early 2018 the company will begin flying its delivery drones to more than 1000 health care facilities around Tanzania, bringing urgently needed medicines and supplies to big hospitals and tiny rural clinics alike.

This is an ambitious expansion from a company that has only been in operation a few months: At 364,900 square miles, Tanzania is roughly 35 times larger than Rwanda. Once Zipline is fully up and running in the country in early 2018, it expects to be able to make 2,000 deliveries per day to over 1,000 health facilities in Tanzania. CEO Keller Rinaudo told Quartz that Zipline has flown more than 1,400 flights—over 60,000 miles—to deliver 2,600 units of blood so far in Rwanda.

Tanzania has committed to using the Zipline technology for one year. If things go well, it plans to expand the program.

The government is confident the autonomous drones will be safe. Bwanakunu’s group received permits from its aviation authority and minister of defense. The drones are required to stay below the height of traditional aviation and give airports a wide berth. They include a parachute that deploys if that anything goes wrong.

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