Drones still have a number of hoops to fly through before drone delivery becomes widespread in the U.S.
But in Peru’s Amazon rainforest, drones are making cargo deliveries of anti-venom medication to remote villages.
WeRobotics, a group that carries out robotic-related social good projects around the world, is testing drone delivery of 2 pound blood samples and anti-venom medication inside of a refrigerated cold pack between the town of Contamana to the more remote village of Pampa Hermosa about 40 kilometers away. It’s a journey that typically lasts 6 hours via canoe — done via drone in 35 minutes. The Contamana region sees an average of 45 snakebites per month, meaning medication on-hand is imperative.
WeRobotics used an E384 fixed wing drone that costs $2,799– a drone that is hand-launched and able to fly autonomously. It’s not a fancy, expensive drone designed to make delivers. (In fact, they tried making deliveries with a $40,000 drone that not only turned out to be quite cumbersome, but didn’t even work).
For now the WeRobotics drone flights are just tests and are not occurring regularly, but that’s not to say they couldn’t. Field tests for a Zika reduction project are scheduled for late 2017, and WeRobotics is currently working to carry out longer distance test flights.
While the taco by drone delivery industry hasn’t really taken off, increasingly more drones are being used to deliver medical supplies to countries with poor infrastructure and in rural areas.
Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup Matternet has been running drone deliveries of medical supplies and specimens in countries around the world, including Switzerland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, since it was founded in 2011. The UPS Foundation announced in May 2016 that it was partnering with drone startup Zipline and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to deliver blood for transfusions by drone throughout Rwanda.