Which countries are using medical drones and how?

The government of India’s second most populated state has recently struck a deal with California-based start-up Zipline that will see autonomous drones deliver blood products, vaccines and medication. This week HBI looks at where else medical drones are being deployed across the world…

The PPP between Zipline and the Maharashtra government is the first time that medical drones will be deployed in Asia. The network is expected to become operational in 2020 and will see Zipline establish 10 distribution centres.

It claims its drones are capable of delivering 1.8kg of cargo at speeds of 110 km/h and has a roundtrip range of 160km. Zipline is the only pureplay medical drone delivery company in the world and has mostly been active in Ghana and Rwanda so far.

It started in the latter market in 2016 and now delivers blood to 21 hospitals and 450 facilities. Today, more than 65% of blood deliveries in Rwanda outside of its capital Kigali use Zipline drones. Ghana is paying Zipline $12m to run deliveries for the next four years out of four distribution centres, having launched the service in April this year.

The only other PPP experiment is in Tanzania, which sees a JV between logistics company DHL, drone-maker Wingcopter, German development agency GIZ and Tanzania’s Commission for Science and Technology (Costech). It has been flying products like anti-venom to remote areas and islands in Lake Victoria.

In the public sector, research suggested that drones could deliver blood between London’s 34 hospitals. Innovation foundation Nesta was hoping to trial flying drones between Guy’s hospital and St Thomas’s hospital but that has so far not happened.

Switzerland’s state-owned postal service La Poste (Swiss) has also been running a medical drone network across three cities since 2017. However, the service was halted in August this year after one of the drones crashed 50 yards away from a group of children.

There is no ongoing project where a private player operates without being in a PPP.

Medical drones are currently being used in both congested and remote areas. The infographic shows, however, just how many gaps there are in the market.

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