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Zipline drone delivers corona vaccines for the first time in Ghana

Zipline drones delivers corona vaccines for first time in Ghana

A great first in the worldwide fight against the coronavirus: in Ghana, a shipment of corona vaccines from AstraZeneca was delivered by Zipline drones to a remote village in the middle of the country in early March. The flight was operated by Zipline, which already has extensive experience in deploying drones for emergency medical delivery, including the distribution of vaccines.

Zipline drones delivers corona vaccines for the first time in Ghana

250 doses per flight

The first drone delivery of corona vaccines took place on March 2, over a distance of 70 kilometers. After a flight of 34 minutes, the drone reached its destination, a clinic in the rural region of Mpanya in the interior of Ghana. Onboard, the drone were 250 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which had entered the country just hours earlier through Zipline partner UPS.

After the cooled cargo was dropped in an insulated box on a parachute at the receiving location, the vaccination could begin. Within five hours, 250 residents had received their first injection. In the same way, a total of 4,500 doses were then flown to the vaccination center with a further 36 drone flights.

A vaccination officer picks up the dropped cool box with vaccines. Photo: Samuel Moore / Gavi
A vaccination officer picks up the dropped cool box with vaccines. Photo: Samuel Moore / Gavi

More than a million vaccines

It is certainly not the first time that vaccines have been transported by drone in this way. Since the partnership between UPS, Zipline, and vaccination organization Gavi started more than two years ago, more than a million vaccines have been delivered to remote locations in the African country. In addition to Ghana, Zipline has also been active in Rwanda for some time, and there are plans to become active in more countries.

Transport by air is often the only option to get urgent medical supplies to their destination within a short period of time, for example, because the access roads are not easily passable. When the corona crisis broke out, Zipline’s drones came in handy right away to transport COVID-19 tests. That was in April 2020.

About the Zipline drones

For the transport of medical goods, Zipline uses electrically powered fixed-wing drones, which come up to speed by means of a special launch installation. The aircraft have a cruising speed of approximately 60 mph. The maximum flight distance is 100 miles, allowing destinations to be served up to 50 miles away. The battery has a capacity of 1.25 kWh.

A maximum of 3.85 pounds of payload can be carried onboard an aircraft. The drones cannot take off or land vertically. Partly for this reason, the cargo is dropped on a parachute at the destination, after which the drone immediately returns to base.

You can read more stories of drones being used for good here.

Let us know what you think about the Zipline drones and if you think we should see the implementation of such delivery methods here in the United States.

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This article first appeared on Dronewatch.nl and is written by Wiebe de Jager who is also a DroneXL contributor.

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Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager (@wdejager) is the founder of Dronewatch and author of several bestselling books about drone photography. Wiebe is a certified drone pilot and has a full ROC license.

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