Improving access to medical supplies with drones


Source: BBC


1. Sustainability Problem: Access to Medical Supplies

The lack of access to essential medical products is an important health and sustainability issue. Many people, especially those living in countries with less developed infrastructure, struggle to receive the health supplies they need, whether that’s blood, vaccines, or medication. Over 5 million children die per year because of this (

Category: Health

2. Technology: Zipline Drone Delivery Hardware and Software

Source: “Blood-delivering drone company Zipline readies for launch in Tanzania”, The Verge:

  • This article discusses Zipline, a U.S.-based technology company that provides drone delivery services for medical products
  • Zipline builds the both the drones and the software that allows doctors to order the medical supplies and dispatches and delivers the supplies to them
  • Zipline currently operates in Rwanda (as of 2016) and is expanding to Tanzania in 2018
  • The company is trying to build a network of centralized distribution centers from which the drones should be able to reach any customer in the country within 30 minutes as opposed to the hours it would take to deliver the medical supplies through traditional means
  • The technology also helps reduce waste because all the small medical facilities don’t have to stock all the supplies they could possibly need anymore and instead can order the ones they need on demand

Tags: #health #access #sustainability #drones

3. Organizational Stakeholders

The technology’s main stakeholders are health professionals like doctors and medical staff. They will be the ones to order the medical supplies, which they can do through their mobile phones. The drone will then drop the supplies off right at their facilities. Another stakeholder is the government of the countries in which Zipline operates because the company needs favorable drone regulation to operate and is trying to get the government to pay for deliveries.

4. Deployment Plan

This technology has already been deployed in one country (Rwanda). The deployment strategy will focus on deploying it in other countries.

  1. Build relationships with governments to demonstrate the technology’s benefits and get government buy-in
  2. Build relationships with medical facilities/doctors/medical staff to educate them about the service and demonstrate its use
  3. Build distribution centers for the drones and medical supplies

5. Comment on Another Blog Post

I commented the following on the Orbital Systems post on the closed loop shower:

An exciting part of the technology is that the system actually makes the recycled water cleaner than the water that initially enters the shower through the water supply. The shower makes sure to eject the 5 liters of water after each shower so that you don’t have to shower “in someone else’s water”, but if it’s the case that the water ends up being even cleaner after recycling it compared to the new water, this shower could have a much greater impact by not ejecting the water after each shower. I also wonder what the limits to recycling the same water over and over again are and whether this has something to do with this.


3 thoughts on “Improving access to medical supplies with drones

  1. A very interesting concept indeed. I am hopeful that this will be the future of shopping, where drones deliver everything to our homes. However, the constraint right now is the drone technology itself. In cities with developed infrastructure, the drones will need to have a top-notch maneuvering ability to avoid buildings. Although your post is focused towards cities with less developed infrastructure, this can prove to be the next challenge.


  2. This is such a great concept. However, my concerns with drones pertain to how they will work in extreme weather, for example, a thunderstorm? Is this innovation limited to being used during certain periods of the year? If yes, then it can be derived this model is not scaleable and replicable.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s