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Zipline’s Ghana Anniversary Primes Converging Drone Delivery Expansion in Africa and US

Even as leading drone delivery company Zipline readies the operational launch of its new Platform 2 network for commercial clients in the US, the company is fêting the anniversary of its groundbreaking healthcare distribution work in Africa ­– an activity that has already benefitted millions of people, and which is now set to be extended and diversified with the backing of trans-Atlantic government partners.

Zipline last week celebrated its fourth anniversary in Ghana, a short but decidedly heady presence that has generated six healthcare distribution centers responsible for 370,000 medical drone deliveries to 2,700 clinics across the nation. Those supplies have improved the lives and health of an estimated 25 million people in Ghana – many of whom reside in the remote areas that have been the leading beneficiaries of UAV transportation of medical care where it’s needed most.

The four-year commemoration was held at Zipline’s Omenako instant logistics center, which carries out an average of 95 drone deliveries each day to destinations the eastern portion of Ghana. 

Attending the event was US Ambassador to Ghana Virginia Palmer, who saluted the South San Francisco-based startup’s work helping African governments implement plans to extend national healthcare capabilities to underserved regions using aerial tech.

In doing so, Palmer underlined the remarkable innovation and determination Zipline demonstrated in rapidly adapting its drone delivery capabilities to the challenges created by the unexpected rise of COVID-19, including transport of highly sensitive vaccines when they became available.

“None of us imagined the COVID vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic when Zipline was being founded, and the tremendous impact you made in getting those vaccines out to people so they can resume their lives is enormous,” Palmer said, according to local press coverage.

As Palmer noted, that performance was one reason behind the US Trade and Development Agency’s decision to tap Zipline’s Ghana unit to perform a feasibility study for further expanding drone delivery operations as a means of broadening access to medical treatment in the nation and other West African countries like Nigeria.

But if both US and local government objectives in that plan are seeking first to leverage Zipline’s new Platform 2 drone delivery hardware and operational strategy to extend and enhance healthcare coverage, they also have an eye on adding the other kinds of UAV transport benefits the company is introducing in the US. 

Those include commercial drone delivery supporting e-commerce and app-based ordering services ­– fast aerial transport of goods that could further fuel economic growth across Africa driven by consumer purchasing using mobile phones. Zipline craft may also add mail distribution to its list of responsibilities, as well as increased on-demand provision of agricultural and veterinary supplies and treatments – an activity having already been critical to small farmers in remote areas facing crop or livestock crises.

Mawuli Atiemo, general manager of Zipline’s operations in Ghana, also indicated that reinforced partnerships with the US and national governments will not only strengthen the collective effort to extend healthcare across Africa using drones, but also accelerate the converging humanitarian-rooted and commercial UAV delivery activities in the US and elsewhere around the globe.

“Since our launch in April 2019, the partnership has made significant strides in revolutionizing the healthcare sector in Ghana,” Atiemo said at the fourth anniversary ceremony. “Looking ahead, Zipline remains dedicated to further expanding our operations with other use cases, and of course home delivery of commodities across Ghana. We will continue to leverage our cutting-edge technology, enhance our logistics capabilities, and forge new partnerships to reach even more communities and ensure no one is left behind. 

“Zipline looks forward to working closely with the US government and other development partners to evolve new ways of working with the private sector, integrating new technology into the existing ecosystem, including pay-for-performance partnerships to facilitate the transition to sustainable models of development,” Atiemo added.

Source : DroneDJ