The controversial medical drone delivery services to be provided by Zipline has already started work from the first distribution centre in Omenako, in the Eastern Region. The Ghana Health Service is running this drone delivery network to swiftly deliver medical supplies to health facilities. And this project will give Ghana one of the most advanced health care supply chains.
Zipline is providing the service for this project. The company is the world’s first national-scale drone delivery service provider. It is expected to fly on-demand, emergency supplies on drones to over 2000 health facilities in the country.
The chief executive officer of Zipline, Keller Rinaudo, has issued a statement pointing that his company is going to work with the Omenako community so they will better understand the work Zipline is doing. He said, “An important part of that process is working with the community and key stakeholders to better understand how the system works and all of the work that’s gone into making it the safest at most reliable service of its kind in the world.”
How the medical drone delivery is working
The health workers in the health facilities will send text messages to the distribution centres to place orders. The distribution centre then packages the medical items and puts them on a drone. The delivery is made in 30 minutes on the average.
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Deliveries are made from the sky. The drones will descend to a certain height above ground and drop the supplies by parachute at marked spots in the health facilities.
The drones are controlled from the distribution centres so there is no additional infrastructure at the facilities they go to.
Safety of the drones and the medical supplies
Safety is really a concern because the drones fly in commercial airspace daily in delivering the items. Thus, the company has taken many measures to make sure that the operation is as safe as it can be. The measures Zipline has taken to ensure a safe service provision include: rigorous flight software tests and aircraft hardware, flight operations safety procedures, redundant inflight safety features, and modular frangible design.
Rigorous flight software tests and Aircraft Hardware
Zipline is continuously working to improve the quality of its code and service every day to ensure the operation is the safest and most effective drone delivery. All software updates are first put through simulations to test. Then, after passing through simulation testing, the code onto drones and tested again to see how it works in the real world.
Flight Operation and Safety
Flight operators physically inspect the drones before flights. The operators use advanced technologies like computer vision during pre-flight checks to ensure each drone is fit for flight. Zipline’s drones fly independently on predetermined routes programmed on them, so the company uses advanced algorithms to make sure all drones in the air know where they are and where they are going.
Redundant In-flight Safety Features
Zipline’s drones automatically detect issues inflight and safely return for repair. So if in mid-air, the drone detects anything that can affect the delivery flight, it returns to the centre for repairs. All the drones have redundant systems as a backup to support flying back if there is a problem. Included in the redundant system are flight computers, motors, communications systems, flight control surfaces, redundant navigation and power systems.
The drones also have parachutes which deploy in the event of emergencies like severe weather, emergency requests from air traffic control. The parachutes allow them to make an immediate landing by slowly descending to the ground.
About Ghana’s Medical Drone Delivery Service
The Medical Drone Delivery Service will run 24 hours a day, all throughout the week. The Ghana Health Service has catalogued 148 lifesaving medical items to stock the four distribution centres nationwide.
Zipline will them deliver those products upon request from any of the thousands of health facilities it will be serving. Each of the four distribution centres will have a team of 35 Ghanaian engineers and logistics personnel. Each centre has at least 20 drones.
All the four distribution centres are going to make at 600 on-demand deliveries per day. Each drone can fly a cargo of 1.75 kilos at a speed of 110 kilometres per hour.