US drone logistics specialist Zipline has signed a deal with the with the government of Côte d'Ivoire to operate medical drone deliveries across the country.
Under the agreement, officially announced on 2 December, Zipline will deliver vaccines, medication, blood products and medical supplies to health facilities nationwide.
The project will also include the construction and operation of four distribution centers which will serve over 1,000 health facilities when completed. The first of these installations is due to begin operation as early as autumn 2022.
The project expands Zipline’s activities in Africa and is the company’s first undertaking in Côte d'Ivoire. Zipline has been operating medical drone deliveries in Rwanda since 2016, and has since expanded its operations to countries such as Ghana and Niger.
“Establishing universal health coverage is one of the ministry’s top priority, and we believe that this bold decision to partner Zipline is one sure way of achieving it,” said Pierre N’gou Dimba, Ivorian Minister of Health, Public Hygiene, and Universal Health Coverage. “We evaluated Zipline’s capacities, its operations in other African countries with similar needs to ours, and we truly believe that this partnership will help us to remove access barriers to health care and create a more equitable and efficient health system across the country.”
UAVaid completes test drone delivery in Sierra Leone
Further west, UAVaid has completed its first medical drone delivery in Sierra Leone on 19 November, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI).
The flight was conducted between the village of Rotifunk and MDDP’s Mabang Community Health Post (MCHP) in the Moyamba District, reducing a journey which takes around two hours via conventional vehicles to a journey time of just 13 minutes.
The flight was conducted as part of the Medical Drone Delivery Project (MDDP) to test and demonstrate the use-case of the project, which aims to improve access to medicines across Sierra Leone. The flight was conducted using funds provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) and not-for-profit international development company Crown Agents.
UAVaid were supported by its VTOL technical partner Swoop Aero, who recently entered into a strategic partnership earlier this year to provide air logistics services in Sierra Leone. As part of the agreement, Swoop will integrate its own autonomous eVTOL aircraft into UAVaid’s existing fixed-wing Hansard drone fleet.
According to David Manley, MDDP’s Project Lead at DSTI, the project will focus on improving medicine deliveries to 250 Community Health Centres (CHCs) and hospitals nationwide, before subsequently expanding to improve access to medicines for communities in remote and hard to reach areas of Sierra Leone.
“Specifically, in addition to contributing to the reduction of maternal-related deaths, the use of drones presents the possibility of numerous cross-sectoral use-cases and fosters informed decision-making at the highest levels of government,” he added.