Ghana launched a fleet of drones on Wednesday to carry medical supplies to remote areas, with President Nana Akufo-Addo declaring it would become the “world’s largest drone delivery service”.
The craft are part of an ambitious plan to leapfrog problems of medical access in a country with poor roads.
“No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need in an emergency,” Mr. Akufo-Addo said in a statement to mark the launch.
“That’s why Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service,” Mr. Akufo-Addo said. “It represents a major step towards giving everyone in this country universal access to lifesaving medicine.”
The drones have been flying test runs with blood and vaccines, but the project was officially inaugurated Wednesday at the main drone base in Omenako.
Omenako is the first of four distribution centres which, when fully operational, will each have 30 drones serving 500 clinics within an 80-kilometre radius.
Operator Zipline, a U.S.-based company, said the three other sites should be up and running by the end of 2019.
The drones are planned to ferry 150 different medicines, blood, and vaccines to more than 2,000 clinics serving over 12 million people — roughly 40% of the population.
Zipline first began delivering blood and medicine in East Africa in 2016, deploying drones in Rwanda, a country dubbed the “land of a thousand hills” where access to many villages by road is difficult.
Now the company is expanding on the other side of the continent.
“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,” said Zipline chief Keller Rinaudo.
Doctors can order blood or medicine by sending a message by mobile phone.