LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Drones delivering blood and medicine to rural areas of Tanzania could help to save the lives of many mothers and newborn babies in a country where one of the biggest causes of maternal deaths is blood loss during childbirth, the UK aid department said.
The Department for International Development (DFID), which has given funding for the trial due to start early next year, said the drone deliveries could assist more than 50,000 births a year in the East African country.
The drones would be able to carry up to 1 kg (2 lbs) of medical supplies and reduce delivery times to 19 minutes from the 110 minutes it takes on average by vehicle. DFID said.
"The UK is at the forefront of investing in cutting-edge technology to tackle the global challenges of today such as disease pandemics, medical emergencies and disaster responses," said Priti Patel, UK's international development secretary.
"This innovative, modern approach ensures we are achieving the best results for the world's poorest people and delivering value for money for British taxpayers," she said in a statement on Thursday.
Seasonal floods in Tanzania can make it impossible for cars and motorcycles to deliver emergency blood supplies to health clinics in rural areas in time to save lives.
The drones, flying at 150 meters (500 ft) above ground, can reach areas up to 75 kms (47 miles) from the central blood bank in the Tanzanian capital Dodoma, DFID said.
DFID said it was also testing drones to map areas of Nepal that are prone to floods, landslides and avalanches to improve response in emergencies.
"To get help to people quickly when these disasters strike it is essential to know exactly where the medical facilities are and what condition the local road network is in," DFID said.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis @MagdalenaMis1; Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)