This is the first time autonomous drones have been used to make regular long-range deliveries into densely populated urban areas and it’s the first time that drones have been deployed to deliver COVID-19 test samples. The service began on April 18th, when 51 coronavirus test samples were collected from patients at rural health facilities and then transported to Zipline’s distribution centre in Omenako, Ghana.
The 51 samples were packed according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines inside the belly of four Zipline drones, which flew more than 70 miles round trip to Accra, the capital city, for testing and analysis.
The packages were dropped via parachute to waiting medical personnel at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. Zipline is also delivering samples from another distribution centre in Ghana to Kumasi, the country’s second-largest city. These drone deliveries allow medical officials to greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain test samples from hard-to-reach rural areas. Instead of waiting several days for a batch of samples to be transported by truck, a single test from a rural area can be delivered for analysis in less than an hour.
Company CEO Keller Rinaudo commented, “Zipline is dedicated to helping Ghana in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Using contactless drone delivery to transport COVID-19 test samples will allow the government to respond to the pandemic and help save lives more quickly.”
Zipline is also delivering masks and other personal protective gear, as well as medicine and blood, to medical facilities in Ghana and Rwanda during the coronavirus outbreak.
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