Medical drone delivery company Zipline has made Ghana its third market in Africa, opening the first of four distribution centres that will use drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products, and life-saving medications.
The launch of the first distribution centre took place on 24 April in the city of Omenako, and was attended by Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Zipline, which already operates in Rwanda and Tanzania, will operate 24/7, with each of the four distribution centres equipped with 30 drones and delivering to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country.
To use Zipline's drone delivery service, health workers place orders by text message and receive their deliveries within 30 minutes. Zipline's drones take off and lands from its distribution centres, requiring no additional infrastructure at the clinics they serve.
The drones can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, cruise at 110km/h and have an all-weather round trip range of 160km. Each distribution centre can deliver to an area of 20,000 km2, which represents a target market of 2.5 million people in Ghana.
Zipline's service in Ghana is being run with support from Gavi (Vaccine Alliance), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer and the UPS Foundation, all of which contributed financial and in-kind support for one-time expenses associated with the service.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said, "The ability of the government to supplement routine immunisation on demand will allow us to make sure that there will always be enough life-saving vaccines for every child in Ghana. This is an exciting development for Gavi that is ultimately going to ensure we leave no one behind and help us protect more children living in remote areas against vaccine preventable diseases."
Since launching its drone delivery service in Rwanda in October of 2016, Zipline has flown over one million autonomous kilometres, and made more than 13,000 deliveries. In Rwanda, Zipline now delivers more than 65% of the country's blood supply outside of the capital Kigali.
The expansion of Zipline's operations in both Ghana and Rwanda will increase the number of health facilities the company serves by almost 10,000%.
"No one in Ghana should die because they can't access the medicine they need in an emergency," said President Akufo-Addo. "We must do everything within our means to ensure that each and every citizen of Ghana has access to the quality healthcare they deserve."