We’re always happy to see news from Zipline. The organization saves lives every single day in Rwanda and Ghana, delivering critical medical supplies on demand to remote communities. And soon, that mission will expand to Nigeria’s Cross River State.
Zipline started flying back in 2016. Using an automated dispatch system, fixed-wing drones carry a small box that’s deployed with a parachute. Those small boxes might contain blood products, vaccination, antibiotics – whatever is needed. The drones initially operated with a Pilot-in-Command overseeing a console monitoring (and controlling) the flights of four drones simultaneously. Now, a single operator can keep watch over 24 aircraft at once.
It’s a really impressive service. And, we seem to recall, Zipline is now the world’s largest drone delivery operation in the world (and by far).
Cross River State
The region will be the first within the southern part of South-South Nigeria to use drones in this way. There will be two distribution centres capable of reaching some 1,000 health facilities serving millions of people. The accuracy of the drops is the equivalent of two parking spaces.
Now just think about that for a second. Scores of requests coming in to those facilities every day, many involving life-threatening situations. If dispatched by ground, some of these journeys could take many hours – even more in muddy or other unfavourable conditions. A Zipline drone, by contrast, can often reach its destination within 30 minutes.
Oh, and did we mention that Zipline operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week? To be honest, we can’t think of a healthcare innovation with more widespread implications for Africa (and elsewhere) than Zipline (nor a better use of drones). So kudos to everyone at Zipline, including founder Keller Rinaudo.
Construction of the two facilities is getting underway immediately and will be complete in about six months.
State governor H.E. Benedict Ayade saw the immense value this project could bring and was keen to collaborate with Zipline to bring the project to fruition:
Healthcare is one of our top priorities, and we are committed to creating a system in which no one is left behind. Zipline is a key, innovative part of our investment in our health systems. Their delivery service will help us to remove access barriers to health care and help create a more equitable and efficient system across the state.
The news release also states that ” Zipline will support all health facilities with emergency response capabilities, as well as routine and stockout-response deliveries of medicines, vaccines, and blood.” Cross River State will be the second state in Nigeria to benefit from the Zipline system.
The news release contains some additional details about how Zipline works. Because we know some of you will share our fascination this, we’ll paste this chunk directly from the release:
Each week, a single Zipline distribution center – a combination of medical
fulfillment warehouse and drone airport – is capable of the on demand
delivery of more than two tons of temperature-controlled medicine to any
point across an almost 8,000 square mile service area. Each aircraft can fly
100 miles round trip, in strong winds and rain, day or night, to make
on-demand deliveries in 30 to 45 minutes on average. Zipline’s drones have
flown more than 5 million autonomous miles to deliver more than 1.5 million
doses of vaccines, units of blood, and critical and life-saving medications to
more than a thousand health facilities serving more than 25 million people
across three countries. In the United States, Zipline has partnered with a
leading healthcare system, Novant Health, on the country’s first drone
logistics operation by a hospital system for pandemic response. To date,
Novant Health has utilized Zipline to make contactless drone distribution of
more than 18,000 units of PPE to frontline medical teams around Charlotte,
North Carolina. Zipline recently announced that it will soon launch medical
delivery services in Kaduna State in Nigeria as its footprint grows across
Africa. Zipline is supporting the Government of Ghana and Rwanda to use its
existing and planned distribution capacity to distribute the COVID-19
vaccines and other medical components. Similar support systems will be
incorporated into the Kaduna and Cross River State projects when
Zipline states that its mission “is to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” We’ve been following Zipline for years, and would not be surprised to see it fulfill that mission statement over time. In fact, we’d be applauding.
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