Zipline is once again expanding its instant logistics network in Africa, this time with the addition of new centers overseeing drone deliveries of medical supplies in Nigeria, which boasts the continent’s largest population and economy.
San Francisco-based Zipline said it has begun trial drone delivery flights in Nigeria’s Kaduna State, where the company plans to transport vaccines, blood products, and other medical supplies to about 500 facilities. The launch replicates efforts by government agencies in other areas of Nigeria – and, indeed, across African – to enhance access to healthcare by using fast and affordable UAV transport to bring materials needed for treatment to remote or otherwise underserved communities.
“Instant logistics enables governments and health systems to optimize their supply chains and reimagine how care is delivered,” said Daniel Marfo, Zipline’s senior vice president of Africa. “Today’s flights mark one more step toward unlocking these benefits for millions more people, and bringing us one step closer to effective, agile systems that better serve all people.”
Read: Forget drones: Zipline says success comes from serving human needs
Once the series of trials has been approval by Nigeria’s aviation authority, Zipline will begin regular drone deliveries of diverse medical materials in Kaduna State, serving around 2 million people. The company will add a total of three logistic and flight centers, but says it remains ready to expand in the event officials want to broaden the program that’s expected to begin service later this month
The added activity in Nigeria is anything but new for Zipline, whose drone transport of medical goods in Africa began way back in 2017 with deliveries of blood products in Rwanda. Since then, the company has undertaken healthcare logistics and transport work with governments in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, and others, as well as the Nigerian states of Bayelsa and Cross River.
Read: Zipline readies medical drone delivery in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state
Under those operations, Zipline has built what it calls the world’s largest automated on-demand drone delivery service, whose over 315,000 flights have transported 5 million units of vaccines and other medical products. Each Zipline drone can fly maximum distance of 160 km, night or day, and get deliveries to destinations in an average of 30 minutes.
“Zipline has a proven track record of health system transformation,” said Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai. “Today, we’re making our first flights to pave the way toward bringing this proven service to Kaduna State…. Zipline’s system is a powerful next step in Kaduna State’s ongoing efforts to create a smarter, stronger health system that better serves everyone in our state.”
Read: Zipline details the rollout of its drone delivery operation in Japan
In addition to its ever-extending African networks, Zipline also provides drone deliveries of medical supplies in several parts of the US, as well as transporting customer orders of Walmart retail goods. In April it also announced an agreement to fly healthcare products to residents of Japan’s Gotō Islands.