Medicine and masks from the sky for Chilean senior citizens


The small Chilean beach enclave Zapallar turned to high-tech drones to deliver medication, masks and hand sanitiser to its elderly in remote areas as coronavirus continues its advance across the largely rural South American nation.

A heavy-duty four-propeller drone, complete with landing gear, is loaded with supplies in the city centre then takes off across a parched, hilly landscape to reach areas as much as a tw -hour walk from the nearest pharmacy.

Chile confirmed more than 10 000 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began. The country placed strict limits on visits to nursing homes and implemented selective, regional quarantines to isolate the sick.

Zapallar has yet to report a case of coronavirus. Its pilot drone programme is designed to keep the elderly and poor, many lacking transport, out of harm’s way, Mayor Gustavo Alessandri said. It could supply families in quarantine, should the outbreak hit closer to home.

“We have a solution to help them get medication without exposing a public worker or family member of the person in quarantine,” Alessandri said.

The drones are remotely controlled by municipal workers.

Seniors are happy with the programme. The town´s coastline is dotted with homes and helicopter landing pads of Santiago´s rich and famous, but its interior is poorer, isolated and sparsely populated.

“This is how we keep progressing and working together,” Alessandri said.

The wealthy beach community used drones for ocean rescues and to monitor forest and brush fires.