New Drones Fly to Ghana and Rwanda in 15 Minutes for Rapid COVID-19 Supply Delivery

The autonomous drones can travel hundreds of kilometers in a matter of minutes.
Fabienne Lang
Zipline droneZipline

Some companies, organizations, and people are finding novel methods to deliver critical COVID-19 supplies to rural health centers and hospitals.

In the U.S. a young teen flies his own plane between hospitals, and in Africa, the tech company Zipline delivers supplies via autonomous drones to rural health centers in Ghana and Rwanda.

Zipline has engineered its drones to carry much-needed supplies over hundreds of kilometers in mere minutes to and from these hospitals.


Rapid delivery

Zipline's drones are carrying vital supplies to COVID-19-stricken rural hospitals in Ghana and Rwanda. Flying these supplies instead of bringing them by car or truck over rough terrain that takes hours to drive through shortens the trip to just 15 or so minutes, and very importantly, minimizes direct human interaction. 

New Drones Fly to Ghana and Rwanda in 15 Minutes for Rapid COVID-19 Supply Delivery
Zipline's drone prepping for action, Source: Zipline

When Zipline kicked off the ground in 2016 the company purely delivered blood to 21 hospitals in Rwanda. Now, it delivers over 160 different medical supplies and has contracts with more than 2,500 hospitals and health facilities in Rwanda and Ghana. 

For the time being, Zipline has been able to keep up with its crucial medical supplies to its hospitals without encountering any drawbacks. 

How does it work?

Doctors simply input their orders and requests via Zipline's app, and can then monitor the shipments via the same app. Each drone's flight is fully autonomous and monitored from the distribution center. The drones can lift off within seven minutes of an order being received, and arrive within 15 to 30 minutes

New Drones Fly to Ghana and Rwanda in 15 Minutes for Rapid COVID-19 Supply Delivery
The number of coronavirus cases in Africa remains low as per reports, but these are rising, Source: Zipline

Speaking about COVID-19 supplies, Zipline's CEO Keller Renaudo told Business Insider "We've actually been able to see a spike in certain hospitals instantaneously where outbreaks are occurring. So having a responsible logistics system doesn't just mean you can respond to an outbreak faster. It also means you can actually spot an outbreak faster." 

Zipline's drone is engineered more similarly to a plane than to a drone, flies completely autonomously, and can go through any type of weather. A single battery charge can last for a 300 kilometer round-trip. 

New Drones Fly to Ghana and Rwanda in 15 Minutes for Rapid COVID-19 Supply Delivery
Zipline's supplies dropping down from an autonomous drone, Source: Zipline

"We operate in crazy weather every single day. So we fly through insane wind, insane rain, insane dust storms in order to reach a patient whose life is depending on us," Rinaudo said. 

So far, Ghana has reported 4,700 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths, and Rwanda has 284 confirmed cases and no deaths to date. 

We have created an interactive page to demonstrate engineers’ noble efforts against COVID-19 across the world. If you are working on a new technology or producing any equipment in the fight against COVID-19, please send your project to us to be featured.


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