In many parts of rural Africa regular medical supplies are hard to come by. Vital infrastructure, such as the roads connecting isolated towns and villages, is often in poor condition or badly affected by extreme weather. Because of this medical supply chains can be completely closed off, meaning that relatively short trips can take days.
In part inspired by the prospect of Amazon and Google's soon-to-be drone delivery services, officials at the United Nations Population Fund teamed up with the Ghana Health Service and the Dutch government to set in motion a pilot program called Dr. One. The program has been seamlessly delivering birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural parts of Ghana on 5-foot-wide drones.
The pilot has gone so well that the project is being extended into six more African countries, with the intention of revolutionizing women's health and family planning across the continent.
Kanyanta Sunkutu, a public health specialist with the United Nations Population Fund, admitted that delivery drones planned in more developed parts of the world helped inspire the Dr. One program. "We thought, 'Hang on a minute. We can use this for something else!'". Delivery to rural areas used to take two days. It will now take 30 minutes."
Silicon Valley startup Matternet is one company that has been leading the way in medical drone deliveries for a while now, testing in challenging rural locations across Haiti, Bhutan, the Dominican Republic and Papua New Guinea.
It's obvious that drones offer a quick and reliable way to transport medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas, and with successful projects such as Dr. One, there's plenty of hope for further life-saving innovation in the future.