China’s first medical drone dropped off life-saving supplies to a remote cliff-top village on Thursday, Chinese media reported.
The drone was photographed hovering over the village of Atule’er in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, which is situated 1,400 metres above sea level, China News reported.
The village in southwestern China made headlines in 2016 when it was revealed that children had to climb 17 vine ladders attached to the cliff face to get to school and back. The government later replaced the ladders with steel ones.
The drone, deployed in partnership between the local government and JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce company, brought villagers anti-inflammatory and cold medicines on its first run.
Before, the journey to deliver supplies would take between six and nine hours, but thanks to the drone, it’s been shortened to a speedy 10 minutes.
“Villagers had to climb down the ladders to buy medicines and essentials. It was really inconvenient, because it takes several hours to complete a round trip,” a villager named Muse Wuha was quoted as saying. “But the drone flies down in minutes. I feel we are embracing a new kind of life.”
The device is expected to make more deliveries soon. No details were given about the regularity of the service.
Medical drones are also used in Rwanda to supply medicines and equipment to areas that are inaccessible because of poor infrastructure. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently began a new phase of testing its hybrid drones by delivering food and medicines to rural Australia.