By launching drones to help in delivering health services around the country, Rwanda has given Africa something to cheer about as the first country in the world to utilize drones to assist health personnel in their work.
The prevailing thought anytime the word drones are mentioned is about military gadgets used to survey and bomb targets remotely from the sky. Basically, drones are unmanned miniature planes fitted with high resolution cameras to send back images and videos to the controller sitting in some cozy office. Basically.
Drones were actually made to aid military operations in difficult terrain. Spy agencies are also known to use drones as much as the military for surveillance purposes.
Over the years, better technology has meant that drones have become cheaper, better and smaller. Actually, they now come in various sizes,; what you buy depends on your purpose for buying them. And you can just order them from your sitting room from many e-commerce websites.
Partnership Made in the US
The drones to be used by the Rwandan government for this project was made in the US by a company known as Zipline based in California.
In April this year, the company announced that it had signed a partnership with the Rwandan government to assist health personal in delivering health care to remote areas.
Initially, the plan was to kick-start the system in July. For one reason or the other (mainly due to the fact that the drones were undergoing vigorous test flights in the country), the launch of the program was delayed until yesterday (Friday) when the President should personally launch the program.
Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world with bad road networks in several communities. Because of that, Many areas of the country outside the major cities are very hard to access.
It is fantastic that technology is being used to effectively surmount the challenged of bad infrastructure on the ground
For now, the drones would be used mainly to deliver much needed blood banks to remote hospitals and medical facilities.
Drones called Zips
The drones known as Zips, would be housed in a distribution center from where they would be dispatched to where they are needed.
There are fifteen of them in the fleet and each can put in about 150 kilometres on a full charge. The highest payload of blood each drone can transport is about 1.5 kg.
On average, it would take about 15 minutes to deliver blood to any facility that asks for it, which means there won’t be any need to refrigerate the blood samples which might have made the whole Project impractical.
Most countries in the world have no defined legislation for the use of drones. But the Rwandan government, perhaps in anticipation of this project, enacted comprehensive rules to regulate drones’ usage.
A drone airport, to complement the laws, is currently under construction. Hopefully it would be completed in 4 years time.
Ultimately, by the time the airport is completed, the system has advanced to a point where getting blood to treat women in poor communities suffering from too much blood loss during childbirth would be easily carried out. According to statistics from the government, loss of blood during childbirth is the major cause of maternal mortality in the country.
Rwandan has now shown poor countries around the world that lack of money should not be a reason to deprive poor communities adequate medical attention.
With commitment, the right legislation, and a marriage of government bureaucracy and technology, no hurdle should be insurmountable.
All that is needed is a leader with vision or the ability to adopt radical methods in solving seemingly intractable problems.
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