Ghana’s innovative use of drones to deliver medical supplies as well as COVID-19 test samples from Rural areas to laboratories in the capital, Accra is gaining global recognition as the world grapples with the Coronavirus pandemic.
The idea was conceived by a Dr. Bismarck Sarkodie, a municipal director for rural health in Ghana when he had to test 244 construction workers for Coronavirus after three of them had tested positive to the virus.
Instead of driving the test swabs to Accra for analysis which would take hours, he decided to drop them at a nearby health facility which used drones to transport the swabs to Accra.
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The test results returned via SMS two days later making Ghana the first country in the world to employ drones in the fight against COVID-19.
Now the American firm that manages the drones, Zipline is looking to copy this innovation by transporting samples from far off places to testing centres nearby.
Although Rwanda started the trend of using drones to transport medical supplies before the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Ghana is the first country to employ the technology to combat COVID-19.
This method has enabled Ghana carry out 70,000 tests so far, the highest in Africa. Until the drones were introduced, samples had to be carried by road from far flung rural areas and communities to the facilities in the capital Accra.
Ghana has about 1,000 COVID-19 cases so far and usage of the drones has ensured that more testing is done in less time than it used to take. The test swabs are packaged with ice in specially designed bio-safe containers, fitted with a parachute and put in the drone.
These drones are designed to release their package at designated drop zones. The personnel who will collect these samples will be alerted about the arrival by SMS. The whole journey takes just 30 minutes compared to the long journey by road.
Zipline drones are capable of transporting 1,500 samples per day with 300 flights to two collection points in the capital.
The company say plans to launch this service in the United States has been accelerated because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than deliver test samples however, Zipline plans to use its drones in the US to distribute test kits and personal protective equipments (PPE).
They also plan to deliver medication to COVID-19 patients on the long run.