Zipline, a Rwandan flagship drone delivery service start-up, in partnership with Novant health, has been granted approval to deliver COVID-19 related medical supplies and test kits in North Carolina.
The start-up which officially launched in 2016 primarily delivered blood but has since expanded to the delivery of 170 different vaccines, blood products and medication. It currently operates in Rwanda and Ghana, with over 40 000 deliveries, to 2 600 health facilities covering an area with over 22 million people to date.
The drones used by Zipline are battery powered and can fly in the harshest of weather conditions. Its mission is “to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies”. This expansion is a step in the direction of the vision of its founders. Countries such Kenya, South Africa and Zambia have been testing drone logistics and developing strategies for its regulation in their regions. This interest by other African countries is expected to grow, shifting the approach to healthcare logistics in the continent.
This transformational development of healthcare logistics has managed to save thousands of lives, attributed to the fact that the drones can reach the most remote parts of the regions it operates in half the time of other logistics methods. Using the Zipline app to make orders, doctors and health facilities can receive medical supplies, on average in about 10 minutes. This has made the healthcare systems in Ghana and Rwanda more efficient and has made health care services more accessible for residents in rural areas.
In curbing the spread of the corona virus, this method of logistics has proven to be the most effective, as it is the only method of delivery without any direct human interaction. Testing programs have been extended to areas that are not easily accessible, one of the biggest obstacles faced by most African countries in the fight against the virus.
There certainly is more room for other drone logistics start-ups in the continent and in the world at large. This shift in medical supplies can bridge the gap between the resources available to the rich and the poor, leveling the playing fields within the healthcare industry across the world.