Ghana is using drone technology in its fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease in the country.
The government is teaming up with Silicon Valley startup Zipline in the initiative. The company is utilizing its drones to speed up the delivery of test samples of COVID-19 from remote locations to testing centers.
In Ghana, only the capital Accra and second-largest city Kumasi have COVID-19 testing labs, a scenario that presented a major challenge to health officials. Taking the swabs by road takes more than six hours and a round-trip would take at least a day. But Zipline’s drones can deliver the swabs in ‘zips’ to designated drop-off points. From here, health officials can collect them, the whole process taking just 30 minutes.
Zipline has said it has a drone fleet in the country that can handle up to 300 flights and deliver over 15,000 tests every day.
The American firm has already conducted several flights using the technology. Plans are underway to have samples from over 1,000 health facilities flown to testing labs in Accra and Kumasi.
Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo launching a Zipline drone in 2019
Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo has said that the use of the drones to transport the samples is a great move. According to him, it allows Ghana’s health officials to test more people and potentially save more lives.
The startup launched its operations in Rwanda in 2016 before expanding to Ghana earlier last year. Initially, its services involved using drones to collect and deliver vaccines, blood, and other critical medical supplies to clinics in rural Rwanda. The same services are available in Ghana, with additional deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) and now COVID-19 test samples to labs for analysis.