MAMPONG, GHANA Thursday, October 10th—Today, President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, officially launched Ghana's newest medical drone delivery base in the city of Mampong during a tour of the region. This marks the second of what will be four medical drone delivery bases that have been commissioned to help expand access to critical and life-saving medicines for people across Ghana.
Zipline, a California-based robotics company, operates the medical drone delivery service with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UPS Foundation, Pfizer and other partners.
Like the facility in Omenako, the Mampong operation uses drones to make on-demand and emergency deliveries of 12 routine and emergency vaccines as well as 148 blood products and critical medicines. Ghana's Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) will supply Zipline with Gavi-supported vaccines for delivery, including Yellow Fever, Polio, Measles & Rubella, Meningitis, Pneumococcal , and Diphtheria & Tetanus, among others. EPI will also leverage Zipline's delivery service for future mass immunization programs in the country.
The service will operate seven days a week with the goal of delivering to up to 500 health facilities in the Ashanti region. The third drone delivery base will launch later this year and the fourth soon after that.
Since launching in April of 2019, the Omenako base has made more than 1300 aerial deliveries across the Eastern Region to deliver more than 7,000 critical and emergency medicines to patients in need and helped to save many lives. Omenako is now serving 52 health facilities with many more expected to be added over the coming weeks, as new routes are approved, and facilities are trained. By April of 2020, all four bases will make up to 600 on-demand delivery flights a day on behalf of the Government of Ghana to close to 2,000 health facilities across the country.
“When we said we were going to use drones to deliver essential medical health products, the naysayers said it was not possible; Today, many of us are seeing how impactful this service has been just within the past five months of its operations,” said His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana. “Every single life in this country is precious. Every mother, every child, every parent, every person. We must do everything within our means to ensure that each and every citizen of Ghana has access to the quality healthcare they deserve.”
“Ghana has become a world leader in using drones to increase health care access and save lives. And other countries are taking note,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “Working together we've already helped to save many lives. And we're determined to help save many more in the years to come.”
The Global Problem
Access to vital health products around the world is hampered by the last mile problem: the difficulty of matching the supply of medicine from central storage to the demand at urban and rural health facilities. All too often, people requiring life-saving care do not get the medicine they need when they need it. Zipline's medical drone delivery system is designed to eliminate this problem.
How Zipline Works
To increase access and reduce medical waste, key stock of blood products, vaccines, and life-saving medications are stored at Zipline's base for just-in-time delivery. Health workers place orders by text message or call and promptly receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average.
The drones both take off from and land at Zipline's base, requiring no additional infrastructure or manpower at the clinics they serve. The drones fly autonomously and can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometers an hour, and have a round trip range of 160 kilometers—even in high-speed winds and rain.
Deliveries are made from the sky, with the drone descending to a safe height above the ground and releasing a box of medicine by parachute to a designated spot at the health centers it serves.
Zipline funds the technology and infrastructure. The cost of establishing the new bases in Ghana was supported through partner contributions. The Government of Ghana, with the generous support of corporate social responsibility contributions, pays Zipline only for the medical delivery service itself.
World-class Support and Partnerships
Several partners provided generous contributions to support the establishment of Zipline's service in Ghana in the interest of advancing universal health access. Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer, and The UPS Foundation contributed grants and in-kind support for one-time expenses associated with initiating Zipline's service in Ghana, like shipping and construction of new bases.
"The ability of the Government to supplement routine immunization on demand will allow us to make sure that there will always be enough life-saving vaccines for every child in Ghana," said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. "This is an exciting development for Gavi that is ultimately going to ensure we leave no one behind and help us protect more children living in remote areas against vaccine preventable diseases."
"Supply-chain innovation and technology are bringing new possibilities to the healthcare industry. Building strong, inclusive public-private partnerships is critical to delivering life-saving commodities throughout our communities," said Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation and UPS chief diversity and inclusion officer. "We are honored to be part of this collective effort to build on the success in Rwanda to help reach the 12 million people in Ghana who will be supported."
"Pfizer is proud to join Zipline and others to support the Government of Ghana as it moves forward in its ambition to provide quality healthcare for each and every one of its citizens," said Caroline Roan, Vice President of Global Health & Patient Access, Pfizer Inc., and President of the Pfizer Foundation. "To overcome today's complex healthcare challenges and go the last mile, we must think differently to strengthen systems and improve supply chain efficiencies. Pfizer looks forward to exploring how the learnings from this program might be leveraged to develop innovative delivery systems around the world to increase access to essential health products and save lives."
"While vaccines prevent three million deaths each year worldwide, there are still far too many children who don't have access to these life-saving tools," said Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Quality primary health care relies on health workers always having access to the vaccines and other critical medicines they need to care for their patients, wherever they are. We are delighted to have supported this effort and commend Ghana on its leadership."
Zipline is also partnering with Novartis to help support its recently announced collaboration with the Government of Ghana to improve screening, diagnosis, and treatment of sickle cell disease. Zipline will use its delivery service to make sure screening tests are widely available, and that adult and pediatric patients can receive the care they need close to home.
"We are excited about the potential that our partnership with Zipline brings in helping reach patients in the most rural villages in Ghana with high-quality care," said Dr. Patrice Matchaba, Group Head Global Health, and Corporate Responsibility at Novartis. "It is only with timely diagnosis and treatment that we can "reimagine" the care and lessen the burden of sickle cell disease on families throughout Ghana."
Zipline's Global Expansion in 2019 and Beyond
Zipline's autonomous drones have flown millions of miles, made tens of thousands of on-demand medical deliveries, and helped to save thousands of lives in emergencies. The revolutionary service helps ensure that health facilities have the vital medical products they need, when they need them, to provide patients with the best care possible.
Zipline is hard at work catching up to demand to expand drone delivery services to developed and developing countries across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Americas, including the United States. Zipline is working with the U.S. state of North Carolina to launch its medical drone delivery as a part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP). In 2020. The company plans to expand to Maharashtra, India, as part of a state government initiative to bring all 120 million of its citizens within range of instant medical delivery by drone. Zipline's goal is to serve 700 million people in the next five years.
Zipline is an automated logistics company based in California. The company—which includes seasoned aerospace veterans from teams like SpaceX, Google, Boeing, and NASA—designs and operates an autonomous system for delivering life-saving medicine to the world's most difficult to reach places. Zipline's mission is to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies. The most respected investors in the world support Zipline, including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, GV, Katalyst Ventures, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, and Stanford University.