Ghana’s drone service, active for the past month, has become a common delivery tool for health workers. At New Tafo Hospital, a small buzzing drone comes in to drop off a few vaccines in a package, before quickly returning to its base.
The drone is used to make on-demand emergency deliveries, round the clock, of 148 different vaccines, lifesaving medications as well as blood products to health facilities. The first hospital which used this service was NewTafo, situated two hours north of Accra. This top-notch technology was offered to Ghana by Zipline, the Silicon Valley Company.
Needless to say, these deliveries are faster than the ones done by the poorly-maintained roads. Kobena Wriedu, a medical superintendent, even revealed that the hospital received about 25 deliveries in the past month, some saving lives during emergencies.
Four centres holding these emergency products will be set up in Ghana by the end of the year. The current Zipline drone center is situated at Omenako, 40 minutes away from the hospital. Under a contract of $12.5 million, the drones are expected to make over 600 deliveries a day, to over 2,000 health facilities and serving 12 million people.
Flying autonomously, the drones carry up to 1.8 kilograms of cargo, at 110 kmph, with a roundtrip range of 160 kilometers in any weather condition. Visually, they resemble smaller, propeller planes. It releases the package through a red parachute and returns to base without landing at the hospital.
The medical supply chain has benefited immensely though Zipline. Kigali, capital of Rwanda, has also seen lifesaving instances with the help of this drone service. Although in its early stages, the drones are believed to grow popular, especially during the rainy season. When deliveries may be impossible due to heavy rain or bad roads, the drone can fly in any weather condition and get the job done.