Of every technological advancement, it is perhaps the drone that invites the most controversy. Some see it as an innovative tool for videography, used to varying degrees of effect by vloggers and content creators. Others see it as an instrument of destruction, a weapon for war. Both cases are disconcerting—it didn’t seem to occur to people from the get-go that the drone could be a tool for good.
But it was obvious for Zipline, a drone delivery service with over 190 chapters all over the globe, that drones could change the world of emergency medical response. Thus, Zipline is partnering with the Philippine Red Cross to provide a unique service: emergency blood delivery via drone.
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This service, which is expected to launch in the summer of 2020, will consist of a network of autonomous drones, designed to make emergency on-demand deliveries, not just of blood but also medical supplies. And because such a service is meant to be quick and responsive, it will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This announcement was made at a signing ceremony held at Philippine Red Cross, attended by Senator and chairman of the Philippine Red Cross Richard Gordon, and U2 frontman, activist, and Zipline board member Bono.
“Music’s my passion, but Zipline is where my other passions come together. [Like] the idea that commerce should serve people, not people serve commerce,” the singer stated during opening remarks. Bono and the rest of his band, U2, are set to play tomorrow at the Philippine Arena for their Joshua Tree tour.
The drone delivery service may prove to be invaluable to Filipinos, especially those living in rural areas. While delivery drones would certainly be handy in Metro Manila, where traffic is so heavy even ambulances have trouble getting to where they need to be, these drones might do the most good in places impacted most by typhoons, landslides, and earthquakes. These natural disasters, which might normally hamper quick medical response, won't pose much of a challenge to Zipline's drones.
"Millions of people in the Philippines can't access the vital medical products they need because of last-mile transportation challenges. Zipline's instant drone delivery service was designed to help solve that problem," says Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. These services and networks are set to be established in key spots such as Cebu, Ilo-Ilo, and parts of Western Visayas.
Let's look at the specs for these drones. They can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, have a round trip range of 160 kilometers in stormy weather, and can fly as fast as 145 kilometers an hour. These drones can carry and deliver life-saving medical products such as vaccines and, of course, blood. Health workers can send a text to request drone assistance and can expect these miraculous machines to arrive at their trouble spots in half an hour or less.
After setting up in Visayas, Zipline hopes to extend its services to Mindanao. Rinaudo has also stated that they hope to introduce the service to public medical centers.
As Bono succinctly put it, “Where you live should never decide whether you live, and that’s why we’re here.”
Photographs by Chris Clemente