Zipline Ghana has commenced the delivery Covid-19 test samples by flying test samples collected from patients in more than 1,000 health facilities located in difficult to reach rural areas of Ghana to Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research laboratories in Accra.

The delivery also includes; Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) in Kumasi, the country’s second-largest city.

In a statement, the company said the revolutionary new service improved governments of Ghana’s ability to monitor the spread of Covid-19 quickly.

“Zipline is dedicated to helping Ghana in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 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, Zipline CEO, Keller Rinaudo said.

“Thanks to the partnership with the Ministry of Health and with the help of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Zipline is now able to further strengthen Ghana’s response to the pandemic,” said Daniel Marfo, General Manager of Zipline in Ghana.

The service began on Friday, April 17, when 51 COVID-19 test samples collected from patients at rural health facilities were transported to Zipline’s distribution centre in Omenako, Ghana.

Over the course of four separate flights, each more than 70 miles/116km’s round tip, Zipline delivered the 51 samples to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra for testing and analysis.

The company will also be delivering COVID-19 test samples collected at regional hospitals near its Mampong distribution centre to the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, a nearly 60 mile/100km round trip flight.

The first such delivery took place on Saturday, April 18, 2020, and the company expects to operate this new daily service for the duration of the Government’s Covid-19 response efforts.

This marks the first time in history that autonomous drones were used to make regular long-range deliveries into densely populated urban areas and to deliver Covid-19 test samples.

The new Covid-19 test sample delivery service allows the government to closely monitor and respond to the spread of the disease in some of the country’s most remote and challenging to reach areas.

Before, Zipline, Covid-19 test sample delivery it took so many hours to deliver samples to health centres, which in some cases jeopardized the government’s ability to respond swiftly and increased the risk that the samples were damaged in transit due to broken cold-chain storage.

Using Zipline’s drones to deliver COVID-19 test samples helps save both time and money.

According to the statement, Health facilities no longer need to wait to collect a sufficient number of tests to justify a truck delivery, since single tests from a rural area could be transported for analysis in under an hour

The company has taken many steps to ensure that it is operating the safest delivery system of its kind in the world, including; rigorous testing of flight software and aircraft hardware, flight operations safety procedures, redundant inflight safety features, and modular frangible design.

Zipline drones are designed to automatically detect issues inflight and safely return to base for repair.

Test samples are packaged in accordance with the World Health Organization’s Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Each drone is equipped with redundant flight computers, motors, communications systems, flight control surfaces, as well as redundant navigation and power systems.

In the event of emergencies like severe weather, emergency requests from air traffic control, or unplanned flight operation issues, each drone is equipped with a parachute that allows it to make an immediate landing by slowly descending to the ground.

In addition to the new Covid-19 test sample delivery service, Zipline is helping the governments of Ghana and Rwanda prepare for and respond to the pandemic in several ways.

As countries seek to reduce social contact, shifting the primary delivery of vaccines and medicines from trucks to drones helps to reduce the risk of increased exposure.

Zipline provides decision-makers with real-time visibility into demand across the health system and serves as an early warning system for potential outbreak hotspots.

In Ghana, Zipline holds all emergency stocks of personal protection equipment for the facilities it serves, like gloves and masks, allowing health authorities to target distribution to regional providers on an as-needed basis.

The company is helping to reduce hospital overcrowding in Ghana, as patients seek more basic or maintenance care at clinics closer to home.

This helps free up beds for patients who truly need them and reduces the risk of exposure to non-infected patients seeking care.

During disasters and outbreaks, Zipline can respond to demand surges and prevent stock-outs by immediately increasing delivery volumes.

New vaccines, test kits, and other innovations can be added to the inventory as soon as they are available and delivered in real-time to help meet extraordinary needs.

Covid-19 related national shutdowns have caused the cancelation of many blood drives in countries around the world, putting a strain on supply.

Zipline’s ability to centralize blood stocks and distribute them just-in-time to health care providers helps to increase patient access, lower waste, and save lives.