UPS is partnering with a company that plans to launch drone deliveries for humanitarian aid in Rwanda.
The UPS Foundation gave an $800,000 grant to vaccine alliance Gavi in support of a partnership with California-based startup Zipline, which is developing drones to quickly deliver vaccines or blood to patients in distress in remote areas.
"If you have a resilient and efficient supply chain, you're going to save lives," said UPS Foundation president Ed Martinez.
UPS and Gavi are working with Zipline on the effort, with UPS lending its experience in logistics and healthcare deliveries.
Sandy Springs-based UPS, like other companies, has also been studying the possibility of drones for commercial deliveries.
While working on humanitarian delivery efforts such as Zipline's, "We're always learning and this is going to be a learning process for us as well," Martinez said.
The Rwandan government plans to start using Zipline drones later this year to make deliveries of blood to transfusing facilities, according to UPS. Such blood deliveries to remote transfusing facilities can help save women suffering from postpartum hemorraghing, according to the company.
"Global public health has been relying on motorcycles and trucks in places that don't have reliable infrastructure or roads," said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo.
The drones Zipline is developing are automated airplanes that can operate in inclement weather. When preparing to make a delivery, the drone makes a quick circle to estimate windspeed, then incorporates that measurement into its estimate of where to descend to about 45 feet off the ground and drop the box with a small wax-paper parachute to land in a target.
After the launch of deliveries of blood in Rwanda, plans are to expand to deliveries of vaccines and other treatments there, as a potential model for other countries.