Robotics company uses unmanned aerial system to save lives in Rwanda

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, learn about a Silicon Valley robotics company that used an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to deliver more than 5,500 units of blood through a delivery service known as “Uber for blood.” Also, read about how Johns Hopkins University and SolAero Technologies Corp. will work together to develop an integrated solar-cell wing rig for AeroVironment's Puma UAS.

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In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, learn about a Silicon Valley robotics company that used an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to deliver more than 5,500 units of blood through a delivery service known as "Uber for blood." Also, read about how Johns Hopkins University and SolAero Technologies Corp. will work together to develop an integrated solar-cell wing rig for AeroVironment's Puma UAS.

Zipline uses UAS to save lives in Rwanda

Over the past year, a Silicon Valley robotics company called Zipline and Rwanda’s health ministry have used UAS to deliver more than 5,500 units of blood through a delivery service known as "Uber for blood."

According to The Guardian, Zipline is delivering blood to 12 regional hospitals from a base in the east of Rwanda. Each hospital serves approximately half a million people.

When a doctor or medical staffer at one of the clinics needs blood, they send a WhatsApp message or log on to Zipline’s order site. After making their request, they are sent a confirmation message saying a Zip UAS is on its way.

Capable of flying up to 60 miles per hour during flight, the UAS makes its way to the clinic, and when it is within a minute of its destination, the doctor receives a text. The UAS then drops the package, which is attached to a parachute, into a special zone near the clinic, and returns to its base.

Using UAS, Zipline and Rwanda’s health ministry have cut the delivery time of life-saving medicine to remote regions of Rwanda from four hours to an average of half an hour, which has helped lower the number of maternal deaths, as well as incidences of malaria-induced anaemia.

"Some of the biggest, most powerful technology companies in the world are still trying to figure out how to do this. But east Africa is showing them all the way," says Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

"The work in Rwanda has shown the world what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand healthcare access with drones and help save lives."

Hoping to emulate the success it has had in Rwanda, Zipline now plans to work with the government of Tanzania to launch what it claims is the world’s largest UAS delivery network.

This year, Zipline plans to deliver a number of medical products to four bases in Tanzania, which support more than 1,000 clinics. These supplies include, but are not limited to, blood transfusion supplies, HIV medication and UV tubes.

Johns Hopkins University and SolAero Technologies Corp. to develop solar-cell wing rig for AeroVironment's Puma UAS

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and SolAero Technologies Corp. will work together to develop an integrated solar-cell wing rig for AeroVironment's Puma UAS.

The brainchild of both SolAero and its subsidiary, Alliance Spacesystems, the solar wing, which is composed of "high-efficiency solar cells integrated onto a ruggedized composite structure," is almost identical to a normal wing on the Puma UAS, but it will use the power of the sun to extend flight time and maximize payload pull for the UAS.

The new product is expected to be tested later on this year.

A contract was awarded to SolAero Technologies Corp. by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and it will fall under the authority of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

"We are excited by the opportunity to provide our lightweight, affordable integrated solar wing technology to APL in support of this important DoD program," says SolAero CEO Brad Clevenger via Dronelife.

"We look forward to the upcoming flight tests and to the positive results enabled by our cooperation with APL on this project."

For JHU, this is not its first journey into the world of unmanned systems. Back in September 2017, JHU medical researchers set a new delivery distance record for medical UAS when they transported human blood samples across 161 miles of Arizona desert using a Latitude Engineering HQ-40 UAS.

During the three hour, the UAS’ on-board payload system maintained temperature control, which helped make sure that the samples were usable for laboratory analysis after landing.

At the time of the flight, JHU pathology professor Timothy Amukele said, "we expect that in many cases, drone transport will be the quickest, safest and most efficient option to deliver some biological samples to a laboratory from rural or urban settings."

View more information on the AUVSI.

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