In Ghana, drones carry vaccines

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Ghana may be the first country to launch a nationwide program to deliver a coronavirus vaccine using drones with the help of a U.S. startup.

San Francisco-based Zipline has been using its proprietary drone technology since 2016 for the automated delivery of plasma and other medical devices such as vaccines. In addition to its operations in other continents, such as Ghana or Rwanda, the startup is also working with the Walmart chain and health care provider Novant Health at home, and was the first to be acquired by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for long-distance drone delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE). permission. Last Thursday, Zipline launched another large-scale venture under the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX program to deliver a coronavirus vaccine to hard-to-reach places in Ghana. The company delivered 4,500 doses of vaccine to one of the country’s southern regions on 36 flights on the first day, and is pledging to deliver a total of 2.5 million doses during the program.

A project supported by local government and UPS, Zipline said, would be the first initiative in the world to spread COVID-19 vaccines in a nationwide system using flying drones. The COVAX program has so far delivered 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Ghana’s capital, and the deployment of the technology would greatly contribute not only to equal access, but also to being able to exploit the full potential of the country’s health infrastructure. The large-scale goal of the COVAX program is for the least developed countries to be able to vaccinate at least 20 percent of their population, specifically with the help of the WHO. This task will be all the more difficult because, in addition to providing the right amount of vaccine, the challenges posed by transport links or underdeveloped logistics networks will have to be eliminated, not to mention the lack of storage capacity needed.

According to the company’s own information, Zipline’s technology is suitable for the proper delivery of the products of all major vaccine manufacturers. Drones, powered by small, conventional aircraft, fly fully automatically, of course with full control at distribution centers. The aircraft, which is just over 90 centimeters long but has a wingspan of more than 3 meters, is capable of speeds of almost 130 km / h and has a range of up to 160 kilometers.

The host party (in this case, doctors working in Ghana) can submit their claims through the Zipline app, and they can also track where each shipment is located. The system not only allows someone to pre-record vaccine orders, but also serves punctually timed deliveries: drones can start with their new cargo within 7 minutes of receiving requests. In addition to the shape of the machines, it also evokes the traditional solutions that the drones do not have to be unloaded after landing, but the padded shipments are delivered by parachute.

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