US robotics company Zipline is looking to build on its success in Rwanda, today announcing plans to expand its blood-by-drone delivery service to neighboring Tanzania. The venture is billed as the world's largest drone delivery service, and will bring vital medical supplies to over one thousand health facilities around the African nation.

Zipline launched its drone delivery service in Rwanda in October last year. Since then it has distributed more than 2,600 units of blood through more than 1,400 flights, offering airborne emergency supplies in a country where uneven terrain and lack of road infrastructure has traditionally made such deliveries difficult.

"Millions of people across the world die each year because they can't get the medicine they need when they need it," said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. "It's a problem in both developed and developing countries. But it's a problem we can help solve with on-demand drone delivery. And African nations are showing the world how it's done."

The Tanzanian government has now enlisted Zipline's fixed-wing aircraft to implement a drone delivery service of its own. This will entail four distribution centers stocked with blood transfusion supplies, emergency vaccines, HIV medication and anti-malarial drugs, along with other goods like sutures and IV tubes.

Thirty Zipline drones will be stationed at each distribution center, each able to carry 1.5 kg of cargo (3.3 lb) and boasting a 160-km range (99 mi). Health workers place their orders by text message, and then workers in the distribution centers load up the drones with the goods, which are then air dropped to a designated point near the health care facility. Each distribution center will be able to make 500 on-demand flights per day.

The first distribution center will be set up at Dodoma, the Tanzanian capital, with flights to kick off in the first quarter of 2018. The three remaining distribution centers will be established throughout the year.

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