USING DRONES TO SAVE LIVES IN AFRICA
By Paul Ndiho
countries are experimenting with drones to deliver on-demand emergency medical supplies to remote areas. The use of drones appears to saving lives.
For an aspiring drone pilot, racing unmanned aerial vehicles in my neighborhood or empty parking lots is a new hobby, and I still have a lot to learn. Perhaps, I should not quit my day job as a journalist anytime soon.
In the United States, three main steps must be taken to become a certified commercial drone pilot. Step one; you must learn the rules as required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Step two; you must pass the knowledge test required by the FAA and Step three; you must register your drone with the FAA.
A San Francisco, California-based tech firm Zipline is changing the way people use drones. The company has a fleet of drones that carry medical supplies to remote areas in Africa.
Earlier this month, Ghana became the second African country after Rwanda to launch a fleet of drones carrying medical supplies to remote areas. The drones are part of an ambitious plan to solve the problem of medical access in a country with poor roads. Dr. Wiredu, medical superintendent, Tafo government hospital:
“With the Zipline and this provision of drone technology we believe very much that if we have to bring things on an emergency basis, it is going to be easier for us. Within a very short time like where we find ourselves in the New Tafo government hospital in 30 minutes, we have this product delivered to you.”
Zipline is quickly becoming one of the world’s largest independent logistics networks, providing nearly 13 million people with instant access to essential medicines and revolutionizing access to healthcare with a cost-effective drone delivery network.
Millions of people across the world — in both developed and developing countries — die each year because they can’t get the medicine they need when they need it,”
Zipline’s drones have been flying test runs with blood and vaccines, at the main drone base in Omenako, 70 kilometers north of Accra, one of the company’s four distribution centers. Zipline says the three other sites should be up and running by the end of 2019.
“When people are in urgent need when their life is on the line, and the hospital might not have the blood or the medicine they need to stay alive, we can get that medicine to them in 15 or 20 minutes by sending a drone and airdropping a package of medicine to the hospital”
Zipline began its African journey in Rwanda in 2016, delivering blood and medicine in Rwanda. That success has inspired other African countries to tap into the technology. In 2016, Malawi’s government launched Africa’s first drone air corridor, to provide a controlled platform for drones to deliver needed services to communities.
UNICEF-Malawi primarily supports the testing corridor as a pilot project using unmanned aircraft systems for transporting dried blood samples for the early diagnosis of HIV in infants.
In Madagascar, drones fly blood and laboratory materials from rural villages to a research station for testing. The drones help doctors speed up the identification of disease in patients and make quick deliveries of vaccines.
Some commercial drones are already being used to monitor crops, inspect bridges and transmission lines, and assist firefighters and police officers and film movies. As for Zipline’s future, the sky is the limit!