Drones from Zipline enable faster coronavirus testing
Zipline conducted its first coronavirus test flight on April 1. The San Francisco-based drone start-up will now use its medical delivery drones to fly samples collected from more than 1000 health facilities in rural areas to laboratories in the capital Accra and in Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city.
“Zipline is dedicated to helping Ghana in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CEO Keller Rinaudo in a statement. “Using contactless drone delivery to transport COVID-19 test samples will allow the government to respond to the pandemic and help save lives more quickly.”
The first official flight took place on April 17, as 51 COVID-19 test samples were collected from patients at rural health facilities and were transported to Zipline’s distribution center in Omekao, Ghana.
The 51 samples were stored inside four Zipline drones which then flew more than 70-mile round trips to Accra for testing and analysis. The packages with the samples were dropped via parachute to waiting medical personnel Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
Zipline is working with the Ministry of health to enable to coronavirus sample flights. The company already operates fleets of drones to deliver blood, vaccines and other essential medical equipment to rural areas.
According to Zipline, using drones to deliver test samples from hard-to-reach rural areas dramatically cuts back on time. Instead of waiting for days for the samples to be delivered by truck, drones can deliver the samples in under an hour.
Zipline said that it expects to operate the service daily “for the duration of the government’s golf COVID-19 response efforts”, according to E&T.