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Rwanda is the first country to give airspace to drones for the express purpose of flying blood to hospitals that request delivery. 

Here, a Zipline drone rests on the launchpad, ready to slingshot into the air so it can deliver blood to one of Rwanda's hospitals. 

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

The Silicon Valley company Zipline uses 6-foot-long drones to fly blood to health clinics and hospitals across Rwanda. 

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

This is the drone staging area inside the main hangar at the Zipline compound, about an hour's drive outside Kigali, Rwanda.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Lab technicians prepare blood platelets for flight via drone to rural hospitals.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Units of blood are ready to ship to hospitals in the lab at Zipline's Rwanda headquarters.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

A flight technician performs a preflight check prior to launching a drone.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

The drones fly predetermined flight paths that have been loaded onto SD cards.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

The drones are nearly human-size. 

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Weighing about 30 pounds each and carrying roughly 3 pounds of blood, the drones head to nine hospitals throughout the western side of the country after first receiving orders via WhatsApp texts.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

After receiving a WhatsApp message request for blood, the drone is put on the launcher.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

A drone is launched from the slingshot-like launchpad.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

A tablet in Zipline's hangar tracks the drone's flight path in real time.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Inside Zipline's control tower, the operator maintains contact with air traffic control in Kigali.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Nine drones sit ready for deployment in the main hangar at the Zipline compound in Rwanda.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Phone, laptop and iPad help keep tabs on everything Zipline needs to know about its drones. 

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

A cooler full of blood arrives at the Zipline compound, where it will be prepared for delivery to hospitals at a moment's request.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

A lab tech prepares blood platelets for a drone flight.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

This is one of the Zipline delivery drones. Each is about 6 feet long and weighs 30 pounds.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Kids line up along the fence to watch the drones land on their return to base.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Last month, Zipline announced an agreement with Tanzania, where it will make up to 2,000 deliveries a day next year, to more than 1,000 health facilities across the country.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

A bag of B+ platelet concentrate in the lab.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Young kids press their noses against a chain-link fence to watch the drones take off and land.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

As it returns for landing, a hook on the drone's underside snags a rope strung between two poles, stopping instantly.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

Once the rope snags a drone, it falls onto a giant inflatable cushion. From there, the drone is taken to the hangar to be checked and prepped for its next flight.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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