Zipline begins medical drone delivery to health facilities in Kaduna

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Zipline Ltd, a national-scale drone delivery service, is to begin delivery of medical services to health facilities to rural communities in Kaduna State by September.

Mr Daniel Marfo, the Senior Vice President of Zipline made the disclosure in Accra, Ghana, during an interactive session with newsmen on Friday.

Marfo said that with Zipline, a distribution service company, would transform access and availability of routine and emergency medicine for Nigerians in the state.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Zipline in February 2021, signed an MOU on drone delivery of medical aids, comprising vaccines, blood and other lifesaving products with the Kaduna State Government.

He said that Zipline was also in talks with other states in Nigeria and some Africa countries for effective drone delivery system of medical equipment to health facilities to rural communities.

He said Zipline which was duly registered with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Health, maintained high degree of safety culture.

The vice president said that the initiative was part of the state government’s vision of using drone delivery to establish universal, seven-days-a-week access to lifesaving and critical medicines for most of its more than eight million citizens over the coming years.

He said the revolutionary new service would use drones to make on-demand deliveries of hundreds of different vaccines, blood products and life-saving medications.

“The new solution is to increase access and reduce medical waste, key stock of blood products, vaccines and life-saving medications.

“All these will be stored at Zipline’s distribution centres for just-in-time delivery.

“Health workers will place orders by text message or call, and promptly receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average.

“The drones both take off from and land at Zipline’s distribution centres, requiring no additional infrastructure or manpower at the clinics they serve.

“The drones fly autonomously and can carry 1.8kg of cargo, cruising at 110km an hour, and have a round trip range of 160km, even in high speed winds and rain,’’ he said.

Marfo said the service would operate 24 hours daily, seven days a week, from three distribution centres with each equipped with 30 drones and deliver to more than one thousand health facilities, serving millions of people across the state.

He said that the company also planned to invest in local content development by employing and training people from the state to work with the company.

He said all the three distribution centres together would be capable of micro targeting the delivery of more than six tons of medical products each week over more than 60,000sq kilometres.

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He said that where Nigerians live should not determine whether or not they have access to medicine they need.

“Our work together will help transform the quality of care for millions and help make Nigeria a world leader in using technology to expand universal healthcare access.

Zipline boss said the company’s end-to-end cold chain distribution capability, which can safely deliver even the Pfizer vaccine, would allow Kaduna health facilities to bypass purchases of ultra-low freezers and enable on-demand deliveries of precise amounts of COVID-19 vaccines.

He said that company currently offers drone delivery of blood, vaccines and other medical equipment in Ghana, Rwanda and the U. S.

Marfo said Zipline also offers services to nations across Africa, with limited cold-chain storage and poor road and rail networks, are grappling with how to deliver COVID-19 vaccines that require ultra-low temperature storage.

He added that the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at around -70 degrees Celsius (-112°F) before being sent to distribution centres in specially designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.

According to him, the threat of COVID-19 has prompted many countries to draft new and emerging technologies to fight the pandemic, with the latest example taking flight in Ghana.

Marfo said: “Deliveries were made by U.S. firm Zipline, which started couriering blood and drugs in Rwanda in 2016.

“Since then, the company has expanded its operations to Ghana in 2019 and the U.S. in 2020, delivering medical supplies and PPE in North Carolina last May.

“Now, Ghana’s government has tapped Zipline to deliver the first vaccines supplied to Africa by the COVAX initiative, a project launched with the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that developing countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“The reason Ghana was the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine is that they had the strongest application, and the reason they had the strongest application is they can guarantee the delivery of this vaccine to any health facility or hospital in the country at low cost and very high reliability.”

He noted that Zipline operates four distribution centers in Ghana, saying each of which is part drone airport and part medical warehouse, housing a fleet of 30 fixed-wing drones as well as medical supplies.

“The aircraft fly to their destination autonomously, drop off packages via parachute, and return home.

“Each distribution center can make deliveries in a 22,500 km2 surrounding area (8,750 mi2). Since 2019, the company has made more than 50,000 deliveries in Ghana, including more than 1 million vaccines, and claims its services can reach 12 million people — just over a third of the country’s total population.

“Zipline’s drones can deliver to hospitals, but also to temporary mobile clinics that will be used to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in the country’s more remote areas.

“Since we launched our first Zip in Rwanda in 2016, we have worked tirelessly to build the first logistics system that serves all humans equally.

” Five years later, we have created the world’s largest automated on-demand delivery service, pioneering a new category of instant logistics.

” Over that time, we have seen the transformative impact of our service: from delivering COVID-19 vaccines at scale in Ghana, and becoming a foundational layer in that country’s medical supply chain, to launching 24/7 deliveries in Rwanda,” Marfo added.

He said, “Not only does this make Ghana the world’s first country to deploy drones on a national scale for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, but is also a giant effort in ensuring equitable access and enabling Ghana to fully utilise its healthcare infrastructure to deliver vaccines.

“We are leading the way in using revolutionary drone technology to provide on-demand delivery of medical supplies and vaccines to our people who need them the most.

“For many countries, nationwide, equitable distribution — especially to remote and hard-to-reach regions — is a daunting challenge.

“But in Ghana, the established health infrastructure and Zipline’s existing network, makes it possible to deliver to those regions quickly and safely,” he maintained. (NAN)

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