UK funds drone-based blood deliveries in Tanzania

Drones in Tanzania
A catapult is used to launch the drones. Photo: DFID

A trial of drone-based deliveries of blood and other medical supplies in Tanzania are being funded by the British government through the Department for International Development(DFID).

The scheme, which involves Silicon Valley start-up Zipline, is to radically reduce the amount of time it takes to send stock by road to health clinics in the African nation.

“This innovative, modern approach ensures we are achieving the best results for the world’s poorest people and delivering value for money for British taxpayers.” – International Development Secretary Priti Patel

Estimates from the DFID predict that using drones to fly blood and medical supplies from Dodoma could save Ksh 5,955,494(£47,400) a year compared to sending them by road.

But a spokeswoman suggested that the time savings were more crucial.

“Flights are planned to start in early 2017, and when they do it is estimated that [the] UAVs could support over 50,000 births a year, cutting down the time mothers and new-borns would have to wait for life-saving medicine to 19 minutes – reduced from the 110 minutes traditional transport methods would take.” – DFID Spokeswoman

The local partner for the scheme will be the Ifakara Health Institute, which specialises in treatments for malaria, HIV, tuberculosis as well as neonatal health issues – will be the local partner.

The Department for International Development has not revealed how much money will be invested in the Tanzanian effort or for how long the project will last.