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Africa Leads the World on Drone Delivery: Flights to Begin in Tanzania in 2018

Africa Leads the World on Drone Delivery: Flights to Begin in Tanzania in 2018

Drone delivery is finally getting off the ground. And the action is happening in East Africa.

Zipline, a pioneering drone startup that began delivering blood packs to Rwanda’s remote hospitals in October 2016, today announced a major expansion into Tanzania. In early 2018 the company will begin flying its delivery drones to more than 1000 health care facilities around Tanzania, bringing urgently needed medicines and supplies to big hospitals and tiny rural clinics alike.

Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO of Zipline, says that “the richest companies in the world” are still trying to figure out how to make instant drone delivery work as a commercial service (as IEEE Spectrum has noted in it’s coverage of Google’s Project Wing and Amazon’s Prime Air). Meanwhile, the world’s first on-demand delivery service is already up and running in Rwanda.

“People expect that advanced robotics and AI are going to start in the United States and be built by rich white people,” Rinaudo says bluntly. Zipline’s East Africa projects defy that expectation, he says, and create a model of tech deployment that the United States and other nations can follow. “Rwanda and Tanzania are showing the world how to use robotic technology to save lives,” he says.

In Tanzania, the company is establishing four distribution centers with up to 30 fixed-wing drones each. Each distribution center will handle up to 500 delivery flights per day. The Tanzanian operation will expand on Zipline’s prior offering by delivering not only blood packs, but also vaccines, HIV medications, anti-malaria drugs, and critical medical supplies like sutures and IV tubes.

To place an order, a health care worker simply sends a text via the popular messaging service WhatsApp. Zipline’s local operators load a drone at the distribution center and launch it into the air, whereupon it autonomously navigates the route to its destination and typically arrives within 30 minutes. To save on battery life and prevent wear-and-tear, the drone doesn’t land; instead it drops its cargo by parachute and then heads back to the distribution center.

Rinaudo says his engineering team has recently made improvements to the drone fleet, working on aerodynamics and battery design to make drones that can fly farther, faster, and with heavier payloads. Another upgrade has to do with maintaining the drones in Africa’s harsh conditions: “We want to be able to swap parts of the vehicle very quickly, almost like Legos, so technicians can very quickly get it back online,” he says.

But Rinaudo says the biggest lesson his team learned in its early Rwanda operations is that “the technology is the easy part.” He ticks off the hard parts of operating an automated, drone-delivery system at national scale: making sure all regulatory issues are resolved; finding and training a local team to operate the distribution centers; spreading word to doctors and health care workers about the service; and communicating with people in towns and villages who see the drones whizzing overhead. “We want them to understand how this technology benefits them,” Rinaudo says.

When describing Zipline’s benefits, Rinaudo employs some convincing statistics and stories. In Rwanda, Zipline has flown 1,400 delivery flights since service began in October 2016. About 25 percent of those flights were emergency deliveries, where doctors didn’t have the blood product they needed for an ailing patient.

Rinaudo describes one case from Rwanda, in which a 24-year-old woman gave birth via C-section at a hospital. There were complications after the birth and the woman began to hemorrhage, so the doctors immediately gave her two packs of blood that matched her blood type. “But she bled out in 10 minutes,” Rinaudo says. “She was in real danger, and likely to lose her life.”

The doctors didn’t have any more packs of her blood type, so they placed an emergency order with Zipline. A procession of drones ended up delivering seven units of red blood cells, two units of plasma, and two units of platelets. “All of that was transfused into this woman—that’s more blood than you have in your body normally—and they stabilized her,” Rinaudo says. The team didn’t just save the woman’s life, he says, they also ensured that her child would have a mother. Not a bad day’s work for a couple of drones.


Original Source: IEEE (

Long-distance Drones Are Doing Transpacific Shipment

Long-distance Drones Are Doing Transpacific Shipment

Whenever a news headline includes the words “drones” and “shipping,” most people assume it’s another article about Amazon or UPS. However, a California startup is setting its aerial sights on a larger market played out on a global scale.

Bay-area based Natilus ( is developing a 30-foot long, fixed-wing drone set to test launch later this summer according to NBC News MACH – an unmanned aircraft that could potentially ship thousands of pounds of cargo across oceans. The report adds:

“If all goes as planned, the firm will develop an 80-foot drone that will begin flying routes from Los Angeles to Hawaii in 2019. A 140-foot drone with a 200,000-pound cargo capacity could be flying routes to China starting in 2020.”

The drone will not resemble the smaller quadcopters and hybrids favored by UPS and Amazon but will instead boast a carbon-fiber wingspan and fuselage as well as jet engines to make marathon trans-oceanic flights. Company officials say the drone will be able to cruise up to 20,000 feet and could shave about half the cost off a manned aircraft, transpacific flight.

Reporter David Freeman explains

“Shipping 200,000 pounds of freight from Los Angles to Shanghai via drone, for example, would take about 30 hours at a cost of about $130,000, the company says. Delivery of the same cargo by a Boeing 747 takes about 11 hours and costs about $260,000.”

“Commercial pilot airplanes don’t want to fly slower because it would take forever to get there and pilot fatigue becomes an issue,” Natilus CEO Aleksey Matyushev told NBC. “For drones, that is not the case.”

Natilus’ lofty plans have drawn attention from the startup community – the company recently raised $750,000 from VC Tim Draper. Shipping companies are also taking notice. Chris Connell, president of global shipper CFI, told Fast Company in a recent report:

“Air cargo is all about speed at high price. Ocean freight is longer transit times at lower pricing. And with certain goods—be it perishables, or goods that are looking for that middle ground—that idea of middle price for middle transit times is that sweet spot.”

Although Natilus may not yet draw the fervent attention or financial firepower of an Amazon, the startup is set to revolutionize the way the world ships tons of goods across the ocean at a lower cost and more robust safety factor.

“Airplanes aren’t going to slow down,” Connell said. “And boats aren’t going to go faster. The drone concept adds something new. It adds to the intrigue.

Original Source: and PwC

UAV Challenge Launched 2 New Global Competitions For Drone Delivery Innovators

UAV Challenge Launched 2 New Global Competitions For Drone Delivery Innovators

About UAV Challenge

UAV Challenge is technical organization from Australia. Their goal is to demonstrate the utility of Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAVs) for civilian applications. They run challenges and contents, and invite university students and high-school students around the world to develop novel and cost-effective solutions.

The UAV Challenge Outback Rescue was an unmanned aircraft search and rescue competition that ran from 2007 to 2014. It saw teams from around the world compete to save lost bushwalker Outback Joe using unmanned aircraft and deliver him a life saving water bottle with a prize of $50,000.

The last UAV Challenge events were held in September 2016, in Calvert and Dalby, Queensland, Australia and was organized  jointly by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and CSIRO.

UAV Challenge Organizers
Current Open Competitions
  • The UAV Challenge Medical Express – an unmanned aircraft competition that demonstrates the use of robotic aircraft for medical sample retrieval and medical delivery, and open to adult teams from around the world. This competition is focussing on autonomy of unmanned aircraft.
  • UAV Challenge Airborne Delivery – an unmanned aircraft competition for high-school students from around the world that demonstrates the use of radio-controlled aircraft with novel delivery mechanisms to deliver medical payloads. 27 teams from 9 countries registered for the 2017 Airborne Delivery Challenge. The teams come from nine different countries including Australia, China, Turkey, Poland, Greece, Denmark, USA, India and Malaysia. The teams will be submitting their technical reports and videos to the organizer to advance in the challenge. Only 20 teams will be selected to take part in the competition in Queensland, Australia in September.