Using ‘evil’ technology in the fight against poverty
Technology is neither inherently good or bad; it is, rather, humanity’s use of technology that can be considered as evil or virtuous. Certain modern tools have the reputation for being capable of carrying out despicable deeds and are, therefore, surrounded by controversy. Artificial intelligence and drones are two of the most widely commentated on and feared applications of modern science. Despite this prevailing negative perception, combatting poverty is happens to be one of the good uses of AI and drones.

Drones Revealing Inequalities

Drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, but they, along with their human operators, are also doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cities and show the line dividing the rich and the poor.

He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. You can see giant mansions with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings squished into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality, which would be impossible without drone photography.

Drones Mapping Land

Another way that drones are helping alleviate poverty is through land mapping. More than half the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove they own their land. This is especially problematic in Kosovo where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars in the late 90s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and their communities. One enormous roadblock is their inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically.

These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business, but she was repeatedly turned down because she lacked “property documents to put down as a guarantee.” These communities do not have the means to hire the land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation for their land.

However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatch drones to map out land plots for a fraction of the cost of traditional land surveyors, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

AI for Safety and Health

Artificial intelligence (AI), also referred to as “machine learning,” is the “capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” It’s often associated with movies about robots destroying humanity that are based on the real fear that one day these machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity. “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this destructive potential of AI, in the real world, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing businesses in Africa.

One article argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is the Moroccan company Casky that uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This has been improving riding habits and providing more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders.

One Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The AI creates models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save many lives of those who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

AI Helping Businesses

Another instance showing the advantages of AI is the reduction of consumer costs from companies like Niotek in Egypt. This company used AI to improve service quality and reduce the likelihood of human error. AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India where RFID tags are being used in dairy cows to provide important information about the cows’ diets and overall health. The information is then stored in a “cow cloud” where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues or if a cow requires their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just a few of the many examples of good uses of AI and drones.  They have been especially useful in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses of AI and drones. While some individuals may want to use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of people looking to use the same tools to improve the world.

Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Drones improving South Africas mines
Toward the end of the 19th century, explorers found diamonds near South Africa’s Orange River.

This marked the beginning of the chain of events that helped turn South Africa into a mining juggernaut.

Despite the danger associated with the work in this industry, it remains crucial to the nation in terms of employment and gross domestic product.

Today, advanced technology, especially drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have the potential to transform South Africa’s mining economy.

The nation has high unemployment and poverty rate and it remains to be seen if drones in South Africa have the power to help or hurt poverty in the nation.

Mining and South Africa’s Economy

Mining industry accounts for the biggest industry in South Africa and mined goods are the country’s biggest exports.

This industry is a large part of South Africa’s economy as the country is rich in coal, diamonds, gold and platinum.

In regards to this, South Africa has attracted large foreign direct investments in the local mining industry.

Nearly 500,000 South Africans worked in the sector and this contributed to around $22 billion in country’s GDP in 2017.

Drones in South Africa’s Mining Industry

Commercial drone use is gaining popularity in South Africa so much that Engineering News has declared 2018 as the year of the drone.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has regulated drone use since 2015 and currently allows 24 companies to incorporate UAVs in business operations.

There are somewhere from 30,000 to 50,000 drones in the country, but more the potential for the increase is present.

Almost 340 applicants are waiting for approval of drone-use. For one of the nation’s largest iron ore producers, Kumba Iron Ore, drones are a large part of the business and drilling is high-tech.

The company uses drones and machines to drill holes and drop explosives for excavation.

In previous times, miners would spend long days sitting on construction machines for the excavation process, but drones have sped up and simplified it.

Kumba also uses autonomous drills and is one of only two companies to adopt this technology worldwide.

Drones are also being used to monitor drilling sites, keeping humans away from dangerous working conditions.

The drones outfitted with cameras and scanners can provide data on operations and current conditions in the mine.

Another company that is using for drones in mining is Exxaro Resources Group in partnership with Rocketmine.

Rocketmine uses UAVs for terrain surveying, stockpile inspection, blast monitoring and mapping services and contracts out drones throughout Africa.

Exxaro’s Grootegeluk coal mine is taking advantage of drones for surveying and mapping in order to increase production through better efficiency.

Effects on Human Jobs

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the market value of drone-powered solutions is over $127 billion.

Drones are revolutionizing mining and keeping more people away from dangerous working conditions.

Unfortunately, men and women in this sector are this could potentially be even worse in the future.

“The sad reality is,” writes Robert J. Traydon for news24 “there will be fewer and fewer jobs available in large mining operations as robots continue to take over.”

That sentiment is hardly universal. The drone industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs for qualified drone pilots.

More specifically, this sector could create more than 30,000 jobs yearly. A rather large caveat is that workers will need to be experienced or high-potential drone pilots. Unskilled laborers may receive no benefit from drone mining.

Mining Drones in South Africa and Poverty in the Country

Poverty is a huge issue for the people of South Africa as the nation faces both unemployment and persistent poverty levels.

Over 25 percent of the workforce is unemployed and almost half of South Africa’s people are chronically poor.

South African men and women need real solutions. Mining is a huge part of the economy and any changes in this industry will have dramatic effects on the South African workers.

If mining drones in South Africa can provide more jobs this could be a good thing for the nation.

Unfortunately, the drones could take human jobs and negatively impact poverty and unemployment. It is still unclear how changes in the mining sector will play out overall for South Africa’s economy and people in general.

There is no doubt that drones in South Africa can make working conditions safer and more efficient for miners in the country.

The only question is the real effect drones will have on South African unemployment and poverty.

Drones take away manpower at dangerous mining sites, but also create jobs for drone pilots and others through the supply chain.

It remains to be seen how this resource-rich nation fully incorporates drones and whether these tools ultimately increase or decrease poverty in the country.

Just like the case in many other sectors, the effect of mining drones in South Africa is neither black nor white when it comes to alleviating poverty.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Drone
No technology is inherently good or bad; rather, it is humanity’s use of that technology that can be evil or virtuous.  Certain modern tools seem only capable of carrying out despicable or ultimately evil deeds as controversy surrounds them, and their names evoke fear. Artificial intelligence (AI) and drones are two of the most widely commented on and feared applications of modern science. Despite the prevailing negative perceptions, AI and drones are also used for a good cause: combatting poverty.

Unequal Scenes

Although drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, they and their human operators are doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cityscapes and the line dividing the rich and the poor. He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. Giant mansions can be seen with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings packed into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality which would be impossible without drone photography.

The Problem of Land Ownership

More than half of the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove that they own their land. This is especially problematic in the country of Kosovo, where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and communities, but they face an enormous roadblock: the inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically. These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business but was repeatedly turned down because she lacked what the government called “property documents to put down as a guarantee.”

These communities do not have the means to hire land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation. However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatches drones to map out land plots. Drones survey and map for a fraction of the cost of traditional means, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

The Positive Impacts of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI, also referred to as “machine learning”) refers to a machine’s ability to imitate intelligent human behavior. AI is often associated with 1980s movies about robots destroying humanity based on a real fear that one day the machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity; “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this apparent destructive potential of AI, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing the African business environment in the real world.

One writer argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is a Moroccan company which uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This improves riding habits and provides more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders. Another instance involves an Egyptian manufacturer using AI to automate certain processes and reduce overall error while improving quality of service, which ultimately reduces the cost to the consumer. Finally, one Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The firm uses AI to create models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save the lives of many who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

In addition to previous models, AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India. Certain Indian dairy cows are given radio-frequency identification tags that transmit important information about the cows’ diets and overall health to cloud storage where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues of the cows that require their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just some of the ways that technology often labeled as “bad” is being used for good, especially in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses for AI and drones. While some individuals use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of men and women using the same tools to improve it.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/magnumppi/38484906775/in/photolist-21CMcZr-TgU1uE-RxNWbP-gkdW7q-sa5LVn-dJzokZ-pabckr-Vh1U5g-UhZrX6-TfWdoR-ei1iWe-RmwaAU-TBJyTd-c44j6Q-qtGCL6-oWuA2x-qwPvqS-U964us-SY4Nu4-22C8TUw-rjM2aJ-h1bHnB-9s88dG-ebeTs9-9zb6Wc-rn4NyK-PU85gp-qKaLku-jEhYAf-fh1RhG-LY5Rwc-9zBnJC-h9ZxJp-pi9TMR-WbAs4Y-cobF47-UQHaoK-21k3RP2-7Gj4Ap-owwBnd-Pvspiw-GtcC1T-X7fCmZ-RutCcq-QQaakB-YvVZwZ-paQKEd-DCurLt-KYdLi5-Y4V1qtDrones oftentimes conjure images of airstrikes, collateral damage, unmanned surveillance or indiscriminate killing machines controlled remotely. But what if the focus was on how life-saving drones could drop medical supplies in far-flung locations? How can the reaction shift to the ways emergency supplies can be airdropped into some of the world’s most unnavigable locations in a matter of minutes? Enter Zipline.

Insufficient Roads

Zipline is a San Francisco-based company revolutionizing the way urgent medical supplies are being delivered in Rwanda. Known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is one of the continent’s smallest countries with a population of almost 12 million people. Despite its size, Rwanda’s poorly-paved roads, seasonal flooding and impassable mountains make it tremendously difficult to travel extensively and efficiently.

Rwanda’s small population and lack of easily-accessible roads make the country a suitable candidate for these life-saving drones. Rough terrain and road mobility are in fact one of the main reasons why approximately two billion people in rural Africa do not have sufficient access to vital medical supplies, according to the World Health Organization.

Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, has devised a way to improve access to urgent supplies by using drones that fly over the country’s rough terrain and deliver goods to remote locations. Affordable and efficient, Zipline accomplishes in less than hour what would have traditionally taken a day. Each individual drone, known as a “zip,” has a 6-foot wingspan, can reach top speeds of 70 mph and can carry up to 1.5 kilograms of blood on a single flight. Between October 2016 and August 2017, Zipline completed “1,400 commercial flights and delivered 2,600 units of blood, a quarter of which were for emergency services.”

Expansion

Zipline is expanding further into Africa, beginning delivery services in Tanzania and launching pilot projects elsewhere in Haiti and Papua New Guinea. Beginning in early 2018, the Tanzanian government has expressed its goal of completing 2,000 daily deliveries and establishing the world’s most expansive drone delivery service.

Zipline is also having an impact in Europe. Its life-saving drones have begun delivering supplies between two hospitals in Lugano, Switzerland, with the hope of further expansion in Zurich and Bern.

Accessibility

Professionals using Zipline can order supplies from their mobile phones and can receive their order within 30 minutes. During this time, the Zipline delivery system follows five simple steps:

  1. Zipline receives a text message—or a WhatsApp—by a health worker far away for a medical product they need right away.
  2. Zipline retrieves the product from its distribution center and prepares for take-off.
  3. Within minutes, a confirmation message is sent to the health worker to let them know their order is on its way.
  4. Pilotless, the drone delivers the products gently by parachute at a faster rate than any other mode of transportation. Hospital employees are notified of the delivery via SMS.
  5. The drone returns safely to the distribution center before departing again for its next delivery.

In a 2016 interview with the BBC, Rinaudo explained that flying these life-saving drones is less expensive than the previous delivery method: motorcycles and trucks.

The use of Zipline’s life-saving drones will hopefully continue to expand in providing essential Amazon-esque packages to remote places around the globe.

– Johnny Harounoff

Photo: Flickr

Droneports in RwandaAdvances in drone technology have had a profound influence on military surveillance and combat. Commercial industries and companies such as Amazon have also invested in drones for fast and easy deliveries. However, perhaps the most innovative use of drones is taking place in the developing world. The development of droneports in Rwanda is leading to drone-facilitated medical deliveries in hard-to-reach regions of the country.

Healthcare in Rwanda

In recent years, Rwanda has exhibited impressive improvement in rural healthcare. Partners in Health (PIH), an organization that seeks to improve medical access in impoverished countries, initiated many of the healthcare advances that have been made in Rwanda. In 2008, PIH resuscitated the healthcare structures of Kayonza and Kirehe, two districts in rural Rwanda. Two hospitals and seven health centers were built, providing nearly 100,000 individuals with access to healthcare.

In the following years, Rwanda’s government took inspiration from PIH’s assistance and continued improving rural healthcare on its own. Today, approximately 90 percent of Rwandans are provided healthcare by the government.

Overcoming Poor Infrastructure

Despite Rwanda’s effective healthcare system, the country’s subpar infrastructure often inhibits medical care. As is the case with many African nations, Rwanda’s population is growing at a tremendous rate. The existing roads are inadequate for gaining access to so many people scattered across the country, especially in remote areas. Using roads, medial supplies such as blood and medicine are not delivered as quickly as necessary.

Drones literally rise above the restrictions of substandard infrastructure.

In September 2015, Rwanda was chosen to be the first African nation to be outfitted with droneports. Drones are capable of quickly delivering up to 22 pounds of supplies for distances up to 60 miles. It is estimated that by installing just three droneports, up to half of Rwanda’s remote countryside will gain access to easy medical deliveries.

A New Trend in Aid Delivery

In 2016, Redline, the company that initially proposed building droneports in Rwanda, began work on the project, which is to be completed in 2020. Renowned British architect, Norman Foster, unveiled his design for the droneports at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. The prototype droneport, constructed entirely of earthen bricks that fit together in the shape of a tortoise shell, was lauded as a work of art as well as a feat of philanthropic engineering.

But Redline is not the only drone company working to bring drones to Rwanda. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of drones make them an appealing tool for medical and other aid organizations. This year, the drone company, Zipline, has already facilitated 1,400 deliveries of medical supplies in Rwanda. Another company, Mobisol, uses drones to distribute parts for solar energy machines.

If the implementation of medical delivery droneports in Rwanda goes well, more droneports will be built throughout Africa. Drones will take to the skies to provide life-saving supplies and revolutionize the distribution of emergency medicine.

– Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Zipline DronesThe California-based company Zipline, which designs and operates drone delivery networks, will start delivering medical tools and vaccines via drones to Tanzanian clinics in 2018.

The East African country has 0.03 doctors per 1,000 people and 5,640 public health facilities for a population of over 56 million. Blood transfusions and treatments for deadly diseases like HIV are hard to come by. In 2014, the CEO of Zipline drones, Keller Rinaudo, noticed this harsh reality as he browsed a database of health emergencies. The database would collect real-time data about patients who were suffering in different regions of the country, but people would not receive aid based on this information. Rinaudo, as he states in an interview with NPR, imagined “the other half of that system — where you know a patient is having a medical emergency and can immediately send the product needed to save that person’s life.”

The ‘other half of this system’ will start in January 2018, as per a statement from the Tanzanian government. Drones will be used for on-demand delivery of vaccines, blood transfusion materials and other medication or medical tools.

A drone medical delivery system is already up and running in Rwanda, with overwhelmingly positive results and stories. Tanzania hopes for an even larger system, where 120 drones will make 2,000 deliveries a day from four distribution centers spread across the country.

Zipline has hired locals to operate both the drones and distribution centers. When a hospital or clinic requests an item, a worker will stock the products into a shoebox-like container and pack the drone, which would zip to the hospital and deliver the products by parachute. This process takes what could be an eight-hour process and cuts it down to under a half hour.

The medical future is bright for rural and impoverished communities like those in Tanzania with the help of drones. Studies have found that blood samples and lab results were safely transported between medical facilities without any change in result, except for the time they took to be transported.

Rinaudo sees the system as a win not only for his Zipline drones company, Rwanda, or Tanzania, but for medical communities across the globe. In the same interview with NPR, he says that operation teams are “phenomenally smart, ambitious and driven. They work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. They will do anything to save human lives…Rwanda showed what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand healthcare access with drones.”

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

10 Ways Drones Could Change Healthcare
Drones first got their day in the sun when Amazon announced their use in commercial package delivery. This announcement opened up Pandora’s box for the use of drones in other fields as well. Soon they were being used for delivering food and aid to inaccessible, disaster-stricken areas. Healthcare, too, picked up on this extremely transformational idea and companies started to explore their possible use in delivering medications and blood samples. Here are 10 ways drones could change healthcare:

Shower contraceptives over Sub-Saharan Africa
The U.N. currently uses five-foot-long drones to drop condoms to Sub-Saharan regions of Africa such as rural Ghana, where only a fraction of women has access to contraception.

Deliver vaccines to poor and inaccessible countries and areas
New research published in 2016 led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center suggests that using drones to deliver vaccines in poor countries might result in reducing costs, in turn improving vaccination rates. According to the research, the price of routine immunizations is expected to rise by 80 percent between 2010 and 2020. One-third of this cost is attributed to supply chain logistics. Using drones for transportation would mean eliminating most of these logistical costs, ensuring that vaccines remain affordable.

As a savior in time-critical situations
In April 2016, tech giant Google patented a new device that can call for a drone in case of an emergency with just the press of a button. These drones that fly in for medical emergencies are equipped with specific lifesaving medical equipment.

In aid of heart attack patients
One of the 10 ways drones could change healthcare is by delivering Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) to patients in need. According to research conducted by the University of Toronto, 85 percent of cardiac arrests happen outside hospitals and, up to 30 percent of the time, the AEDs are locked inside closed buildings. TU Delft Ambulance Drone is a prototype which has lifesaving technologies such as an AED and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) aids onboard. Upon landing, it is capable of instructing bystanders on how to perform CPR and instruct them on the use of AEDs until emergency services arrive.

For delivery of samples to laboratories
Delivering samples to laboratories that are far away from the collection area is also vital to healthcare. Drones such as Vayu are now being used in parts of Madagascar to carry blood and stool samples for testing in the country’s central laboratory.

To transport blood samples for HIV testing
In countries such as Malawi, one in 10 people is HIV-positive. However, the entire country has only eight laboratories equipped for HIV testing. In the past, reliance has been mostly on motorcycle drivers to deliver samples to the testing facilities, thus increasing the turnaround time in getting results. The use of drones in carrying these samples means the elimination of road travel, leading to faster results.

To transfer blood for transfusion
In October 2016, a San Francisco-based start-up called Zipline opened its first operational site in Rwanda. According to the company’s website, it serves 21 Rwandan hospitals and provides access to lifesaving blood products for eight million Rwandans. Zipline promises to airdrop blood products in less than 15 minutes, a feat which once took hours though road transportation.

To transport humans
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of June 2017, 117,660 people need a lifesaving organ transplant and every ten minutes someone is added to the transplant list. EHang and with Lung Biotechnology PBC have agreed to work together to create what they call the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system, which stands to revolutionize the way organs are transported in the U.S. Once in operation, this system will help save tens of thousands of lives by performing on-time delivery of organs to people in need.

As Healthcare Integrated Rescue Operations (HiRO)
In areas hit by natural disasters, these types of drones can help deliver medications and lifesaving supplies to areas inaccessible by roads.

To deliver anti-venom for snakebites
The small unmanned vehicles might also be used for the transport of expensive and rarely used drugs, such as anti-venom for snake bites.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in healthcare holds great promise and will probably champion a future with cheaper and faster healthcare. Though this article states only 10 ways drones could change healthcare, the possibilities are infinite, and only time will tell how successful we in converting them to reality.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr


On October 14, 2016, an 18-second video of what looks to be a model airplane buzzes overhead against a sky slowly turning to dusk. A small red box ejects out of the back and begins a descent by paper parachute before landing at the front steps of a building in Rwanda’s Muhanga District. California-based company Zipline had just made its first delivery of blood by drone to improve health in Rwanda.

That day marked the beginning of Rwanda’s national drone delivery program which, over the next three years, is anticipated to save thousands of lives and drastically improve health in Rwanda.

The endeavor is a partnership between Zipline, the Rwandan government, the United Parcel Service (UPS) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of health in Rwanda by delivering important medical supplies to remote locations quickly. This partnership currently maintains a fleet of 15 drones, referred to as “Zips,” that are all designed, manufactured, operated and launched by the company itself. Zips have the capability to fly round trips of up to 150 km while carrying 1.5 kg of blood–despite windy and rainy weather conditions. Orders are placed by text messages. They are then received by the distribution center and sent out to be delivered via Zips launched from slingshot-style catapults. When the delivery is complete, the Zips simply return to their original locations without having to land at the drop site.

Chief Executive Officer Keller Rinaudo touts the company as a solution to the last-mile problem, which is when supplies are unable to be delivered from the city to more remote and rural locations. The reasons for the last-mile problem vary, but they usually involve lack of adequate transportation for the rural poor. In addition, washed out roads or difficult terrain like hills and valleys make it difficult to construct reliable roadways. Improving health in Rwanda has been slow due to these factors. In the medical field, the failure to connect a supplier to the end users can be fatal.

In a November 2016 interview with Code Mobile, Rinaudo said, “When you need blood, you really need it. Your life is on the line and minutes are the difference between life and death. The challenge with blood is that it expires quickly. You have all different types, you don’t know what you’re going to need before you actually have a patient dying. What was happening was that…they have a patient that is dying, the doctor gets into a car, drives to a blood bank and drives four hours back. Obviously at that point usually the patient is either stable or dead.”

Approximately half of the blood that is currently delivered by road ends up being used for transfusions to women giving birth. When blood can be delivered quickly, doctors have access to more life-saving options for their emergency patients. In one case, a Zip only took five minutes to deliver a package of blood over a span of 33 miles.

For the beginning of the 2017 year, the plan is to expand Zipline into the Eastern half of Rwanda. This will keep their staff of skilled engineers, who have previously worked at organizations like Space X, NASA, Lockheed Martin and Google, incredibly busy. Justin Hamilton, the official spokesman for the company, described the future ambitions of the company: “There is a palpable sense of the promise this technology holds to save lives in the communities we serve. We look forward to expanding our efforts to serve the eastern half of Rwanda this year before expanding across Africa and the world.”

For Zipline, health in Rwanda is something that can be addressed with a talented staff and just a few catapults.

Tammy Hineline

Photo: Flickr

Drones Helping the Sick in Costa Rica
Drones delivering medicine could be a solution for people living in the remote areas of Costa Rica. The indigenous people in these areas are far away from medical facilities and pharmacies. Trekking back and forth from their homes to cities to get medical supplies is a very difficult and time-consuming process. Therefore, many do not get the medicine they need.

As an initiative of Costa Rica’s Social Security System (CAJA), drones will deliver medication to eight indigenous communities in the province of Limón. To launch the program, CAJA has teamed up with the company Zipline.

Zipline, with the tagline, “No Roads, No Problems!” manufactures small robot airplanes called “Zips,” which can carry vaccines, medicine and blood to wherever they are needed. The startup estimates that “two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products, often due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure.” Zipline offers a simple way to deliver prescriptions to people living in rural regions especially in underdeveloped countries. Zipline is already in use in Rwanda, delivering blood and plasma to hospitals in rural areas. These drones make 50 to 150 deliveries per day.

The Zipline method is easy. After a doctor inputs the prescription into CAJA’s Digital Health Records system, a pharmacist at a local clinic prepares the medication, secures it in a container and places it inside the drone. Now, the Zip can begin its flight to the patient’s home. Once the medicine has been safely parachuted to the destination, the doctor is alerted in order to keep track of who has received medication.

The drones delivering medicine only weigh about 22 pounds. They are equipped with a GPS for location accuracy. Clinical workers can also ensure that the drones are following the correct route. The drones usually travel 62 miles per hour, but can go faster if needed. At such a rate, medication reaches its destination in approximately 45 minutes. As compared to the usual three-day process of getting medication to patients, the drones are cutting the time down dramatically.

In 2017, Zips will deliver approximately 13,200 packages a month, which will cost the Costa Rican government $26,000. This is much cheaper and more effective than alternatives tried in the past, including bicycles, motorcycles and boats. Land transportation methods have had issues because remote areas rarely have paved roads.

If drones delivering medicine are successful in Limón, the program, or one like it, may expand to other communities in need and possibly other countries that face similar issues.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Drones for Refugees: Saving Lives in the Mediterranean
Since 2014, 10 people have died every day attempting to travel to Mediterranean countries by sea. The Drones for Refugees project wants to make the voyage safer.

The drones livestream areas heavily trafficked by refugees in the Mediterranean Sea and use infrared sensors to allow easy viewing at night. The drones run on solar batteries and use wireless internet connection, requiring little human involvement. Workers in ground stations monitor the footage on a computer or mobile device and collect information such as the number of people on a boat, the coordinates, whether the route is correct and whether there are enough life vests. In the case of an emergency, monitors quickly alert rescue crews. Newer drone prototypes carry an emergency aid package that can be released when needed. This quick response can save many lives.

The prototype was tested in Lesbos between July and August 2016. A more advanced version will debut in Sicily in the spring of 2017. Drones for Refugees is currently self-funded, but with help from investors and donors, the organization hopes to produce larger drones capable of traveling longer distances.

Project director Mehdi Salehi originally co-founded Good Drones, an innovation and design lab focused on using drones to solve social problems. Drones for Refugees is only one of the projects of the Good Drones initiative. Salehi was inspired by news footage of Syrian refugees traveling on worn-down boats in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as his own personal experiences.

In 2001, Salehi was an Afghani refugee. He and a friend traveled to Greece on a small boat. Once he arrived in Greece, Salehi was imprisoned for five months. Eventually, with the help of a Greek lawyer, he was able to receive political asylum. He went on to graduate from the University of Volos and moved to New York to attend Parson School of Design. He says about his experience, “I was very lucky. I got a lot of support from people that met me along the way, especially in Greece. They encouraged me and believed in me. Refugees and migrants, that’s what we need: an opportunity to thrive.”

For refugees, crossing the Mediterranean can be an exhausting and terrifying experience. Drones for Refugees wants to ensure that refugees are given a fighting chance to escape the violence and oppression in their home countries.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr