Philanthropist, U2 frontman Bono unveils PH’s first-ever drone-based blood delivery service

<I>Photo: Khyne Palumar / Coconuts Manila</I>
Photo: Khyne Palumar / Coconuts Manila

Rock star philanthropist Bono today announced a partnership plan between the Philippine Red Cross and American company Zipline to deliver life-saving cargo, including blood and medicine, via drones to patients in remote areas of the country.

The project, slated to launch in the summer of 2020, will start by delivering blood from the Philippine Red Cross to three distribution centers in the Visayas region before expanding to include over 150 life-saving products, including medicine and vaccines. The medical-supplies-by-drone scheme aims to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Aside from being the country’s first, it’s slated to be the biggest medical drone delivery operation in the Asia-Pacific region.

“They’re not lacking in ambition,” the U2 frontman said of the project, referring to the partnership signed by himself, Red Cross Chairman Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon, Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo, and U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim.

“The Senator’s favorite song is The Impossible Dream — this is the impossible dream,” he added, noting that the project will require cooperation and support at every level, including from governments, local communities, and volunteers.

The medical drones will be able to carry up to two kilos of cargo and fly up to 145kph with a round trip range of 160 kilometers, even through high winds and rain. Healthcare workers will be able to request deliveries via text, with the supplies arriving in about half an hour.

Musician-activist Bono at the contract signing of the Philippines’ first blood-by-drone delivery service, with Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo in the background. Photo: Khyne Palumar / Coconuts Manila

The Philippine Red Cross has said that over two billion people across the world don’t have access to life-saving medicine because of transport challenges. Close to half of the Philippine’s 105 million-strong population lives in remote and rural areas.

Bono, a member of Amnesty International and a staunch advocate of human rights, was also quizzed by a reporter about any plans of visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to talk about his administration’s spotty rights record.

Read: ‘Devoid of truth,’ Philippine police say of drug war rapes, torture, abuses reported by ICC

“I have no plans of seeing Duterte,” Bono said, adding that, at the moment, he’s just focused on working with the country’s health services, and performing U2’s first-ever concert in the Philippines as part of its Joshua Tree tour at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bulacan tomorrow.

Sitting in the panel at the Philippine Red Cross in Mandaluyong City. Photo: Khyne Palumar / Coconuts Manila

“President Duterte is very popular. He doesn’t need me on his side,” Bono added. “I think we’re trying to make a difference here and try not to make other headlines other than for Zipline tomorrow.”

“But I have been a member of Amnesty International, I have been all my life. I take human rights very seriously, and human rights are critical,” he continued, offering a subtle critique of Duterte’s government.

“My impression of the Philippines, very caring, very sophisticated people. I understand when progress is made, people make compromises on that progress. And I’ll just say you can’t make compromises for human rights. That’s my soft message to the president.”


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