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Zipline using drones to deliver COVID-19 test samples in Ghana

Ghana , 20 Apr 2020
Zipline has begun flying COVID-19 test samples collected from patients in rural areas of Ghana to laboratories.
Zipline has begun flying COVID-19 test samples collected from patients in rural areas of Ghana to laboratories.

On-demand drone delivery service Zipline has begun flying COVID-19 test samples collected from patients in rural areas of Ghana to laboratories in Accra and Kumasi, expanding usage of its platform.

Based in California, Zipline designs and operates an autonomous system for delivering lifesaving medicine to the world's most difficult-to-reach places, with its drone delivery service dedicated to expanding healthcare access.

Health workers place orders by text message and receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average. Zipline's drones take off and land from Zipline's distribution centres, requiring no additional infrastructure at the clinics it serves, with each drone carrying 1.75 kilos of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometres an hour, and having an all-weather round trip range of 160 kilometres.

The company, which is also active in Rwanda and Tanzania, launched in Ghana last year and has since raised US$190-million in a funding round that valued the company at over US$1-billion. It has now expanded usage of its platform in Ghana to assist the government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zipline said the new service improved the Ghanaian government’s ability to more quickly monitor the spread of COVID-19.

“Zipline is dedicated to helping Ghana in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic," said CEO Keller Rinaudo. “Using contactless drone delivery to transport COVID-19 test samples will allow the government to more quickly respond to the pandemic and help save lives.”

The service began on 1 April 2020, with 51 COVID-19 test samples collected from patients at rural health facilities and transported to Zipline's distribution centre in Omenako, Ghana.

Over the course of four separate flights, each a round trip of more than 116 kilometres, Zipline delivered the samples to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra for testing and analysis.

The company will also be delivering COVID-19 test samples collected at regional hospitals near its Mapong distribution centre to the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, a nearly 100-kilometre round trip flight.

Zipline expects to operate this new daily service for the duration of the Government's COVID-19 response efforts.

In addition to the new COVID-19 test sample delivery service, Zipline is helping the governments of Ghana and Rwanda respond to the pandemic in several other ways.

It is providing decision-makers with real-time visibility into demand across the health system, while in Ghana it is holding all emergency stocks of personal protection equipment, like gloves and masks, allowing health authorities to target distribution to regional providers on an as-needed basis.

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