The UPS Foundation has partnered with Zipline, a California¬-based robotics company, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to explore using drones to transform the way life-saving medicines like blood and vaccines are delivered across the world.
All too often, critical health products spoil or fail to reach the individuals who urgently need them. This public-private partnership combines a century of global logistics expertise, cold chain and healthcare delivery from UPS with Zipline’s national drone delivery network and Gavi’s experience in developing countries focused on saving lives and protecting health in the most remote places of the world.
The UPS Foundation has awarded an $800 000 grant to support the initial launch of this initiative in Rwanda.
“Public-private partnerships are the key to solving many of the world’s challenges, with each partner contributing its unique expertise,” says Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer at UPS. “UPS is always exploring innovative ways to enhance humanitarian logistics to help save lives, and we’re proud to partner with Gavi and Zipline as we explore ways to extend the Rwandan government’s innovations at a global scale.”
Starting later this year, the Rwandan government will begin using Zipline drones, which can make up to 150 deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country. According to the WHO, Africa has the highest rate in the world of maternal death due to postpartum hemorrhaging, which makes access to lifesaving blood transfusions critically important for women across the continent.
“This exciting new partnership is one that shows UPS’s innovation at its best. Its application for a good cause is something that has enormous potential for other parts of UPS’s global network,” says Jean-Francois Condamine, president of the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Africa (ISMEA) district for UPS. “While it is too early to determine whether similar uses for drones would work well in the ISMEA region, a new door is open and we are excited about future opportunities.”
“Our partnership with UPS and Zipline is an exciting step into a new territory for the delivery of medical supplies,” says Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “It is a totally different way of delivering vaccines to remote communities and we are extremely interested to learn if UAVs can provide a safe, effective way to make vaccines available for some of the hardest-to-reach children.”
While Rwanda’s national drone network is initially focused on the delivery of blood supplies, the plan is to expand the initiative to include vaccines, treatments for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and many other essential and lifesaving medicines. Rwanda’s drone delivery operation is expected to save thousands of lives over the next three years and could serve as a model for other countries.
“The inability to deliver life-saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year. The work of this partnership will help solve that problem once and for all,” says Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “With the expertise and vision of UPS, Gavi and Zipline, instant drone delivery will allow us to save thousands of lives in a way that was never before possible.”