Friday January 25, 2019

Zipline Utilizes Autonomous Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Rwanda

Zipline is a Silicon Valley based, national scale, autonomous drone delivery service that specializes in delivering medical supplies. In Rwanda, Zipline delivers medical supplies such as blood bags for blood transfusions, to doctors in remote villages to treat mothers during childbirth. Zipline uses planes that fly at 100 km/h instead of quadcopters as planes are faster. It only takes 5 minutes from the time that an order is received by text message until the flight is launched.

The GPS is attached to the battery pack so it is always "on" as this eliminates boot time. This measure saves lives as it cuts 10 - 15 minutes off preflight check time. An app uses machine learning and computer vision to check the movement parts such as the rudders and flaps during the preflight check. A QR code on each surface of the plane is scanned by the app which in turn allows the app to communicate with the plane to perform an automated safety check. Finally the plane is launched and it uses GPS to autonomously navigate to the drop zone. There the medical supplies are parachuted to the earth in a cardboard box, the clinic is notified that the drop is completed, and the plane returns home.

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. Zipline's newest generation of autonomous aircraft flies farther, faster and with more cargo than was ever before possible -- even in high altitude, heavy wind, or rain.