Zipline drones will serve up to 2,000 health facilities and 12 million people in Ghana making it the world’s largest autonomous medical drone delivery service. The UPS press room reports that a collaborative between the UPS Foundation, Gavi – The Vaccine Alliance and the Ghanaian government and joined this time by the Gates Foundation and Pfizer, will use drones to make on-demand, emergency medical materials deliveries.
The Zipline press release states:
“The revolutionary new service will use drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products, and life-saving medications. The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from 4 distribution centres—each equipped with 30 drones—and deliver to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country making 500 flights per day.”
This will enable just-in-time drone delivery of blood products to hard-to-reach clinics in Ghana.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said, “The ability of the Government to supplement routine immunization on demand will allow us to make sure that there will always be enough life-saving vaccines for every child in Ghana.”
Logistics management will be Zipline’s responsibility. The UPS Foundation will provide $3 million, including $2.4 million in funding and will also provide $600,000 of in-kind shipping services apart from technical guidance and consultancy services as needed, in consultation with Gavi and collaboratively with Zipline.
President of The UPS Foundation and UPS chief diversity and inclusion officer Eduardo Martinez said, “The program’s ongoing success in Rwanda demonstrates that the collective effort of a public-private partnership focused on advanced supply chain technologies can enhance access to life-saving medical commodities throughout Africa.”
Twitter welcomed this announcement:
Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia @MBawumia – Not a single Ghanaian, irrespective of his or her remoteness, deserves to die due to inaccessibility to emergency health care. 4/4
@UPS_Foundation – Today, led by the government of Ghana, @gavi, @UPS, and @zipline expanded the just-in-time #drone delivery network of essential vaccines and vital medicines to millions of #Ghana citizens. #WorldImmunizationWeek
@zipline – #ZiplineGhana’s revolutionary drone service will make on-demand deliveries of 148 critical medicines, vital blood products, and vaccines. #VaccinesWork
We have LIFT OFF! As of today, drones will deliver life-saving vaccines to health centres across #Ghana. This is thanks to an innovative partnership with @Health_ghana, @Zipline, @UPS_Foundation, @Pfizer, @GatesAfrica & @Gavi #ZiplineGhana #VaccinesWork https://bit.ly/2VoElpY
Zipline’s contract with the government of Ghana is worth US $12.5 million, but has faced significant criticism over the deal from the minority party in the Ghanaian government arguing that funding was urgently needed for basic services rather than for medical drone delivery. The contract was approved, though, and Zipline will be scaling up its operations to meet demand.
Director-General of the Ghana Health Services said Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare said, “Using drones for emergency medical delivery, Ghana will be able to save money and save lives. No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need. Drone delivery will help us prevent that.”
“We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Health as we begin emergency medical drone delivery in Ghana,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo.
Zipline’s Safety System
Zipline’s drone delivery service will be pressed into action the moment Health workers place orders by text message, via WhatsApp or SMS and will receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average. Zipline’s drones will take off and land from its distribution centres, requiring no additional infrastructure at the clinics it serves. The drone will descend to a safe height above the ground and air-drop medicine by parachute to a designated spot at the health centres.
Redundant In-flight Safety Features
Each drone is equipped with redundant flight computers, motors, communications systems, flight control surfaces, as well as redundant navigation and power systems. said Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare
In case of emergencies like severe weather, emergency requests from air traffic control or unplanned flight operation issues, each drone is equipped with a parachute that allows it to make an immediate landing by slowly descending to the ground.
Modular Frangible Design
Zipline’s drones core navigation, power, communications, and computing functions are inserted into the drone as a single unit. That unit is housed within a carbon fibre chassis that is protected by an outer styrofoam shell, similar to the construction of helmets. The styrofoam serves to protect anything on the outside of the drone as well as everything on the inside.
Each of the four distribution centres will be staffed by a team of 35 Ghanaian engineers and logistics personnel, equipped with at least 20 drones. Together, all four distribution centres are capable of making at least 600 on-demand delivery flights a day. The drones can carry 1.75 kilos of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometres an hour, and have an all-weather round trip range of 160 kilometres.
Speaking at the launch of the Zipline medical drone centre at Omenako in the Eastern Region on Wednesday, 24 April 2019, Amoatia Ofori Panin II said presenting his view, “We need people who are going to be committed, that have been the problem of our country – a committed workforce, genuine. So, I’m saying that anyone who doesn’t like progress is a bad person and also a witch/wizard.”
The Omenako Centre is one of Zipline’s bases across the country and will serve the Eastern, Volta and parts of the Ashanti regions. Three others are scheduled to be completed within the year.
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