Rwanda is leading the way by being the first country to use drones on a national scale in health care. Now Ghana is following. Photo: World Bank Photo Collection, Flickr.

Is “Sky Ambulances” the future in Health Care?

Zipline, a US-based company, has been using drones to deliver medical supplies to health clinics and hospitals in remote areas in Rwanda since 2016. Now the project is to be implemented in Ghana.

In January 2019, Zipline announced that they had set up their first distribution centers in Ghana, following a similar project design introduced in Rwanda in 2016. Children in Rwandan distribution centers are calling the drones “Sky ambulances”, Which according to Keller Rinaudo, the CEO at Zipline, is an accurate description. The drones are delivering medical supplies and blood bags to hospitals and remote health clinics through the sky by dropping off packages with small parachutes.

It takes about 30 minutes for the drone to travel 50 kilometers and as drones are not dependent on the local infrastructure, they can fly over mountains and in most weathers. Drones could therefore be the solution to improving access to medical supplies in remote areas around the world. Inaccessible areas with a limited supply of blood and medicine could quickly have these supplies delivered to them - a service that took several hours prior to the use of drones.

Even though the project could develop Ghana's medical care to the better, the project has met ciritism. Zipline will get $ 12 million for the first four years of the project. Politicians, medical personnel and lawmakers in Ghana has questioned both the cost of the project and if drones are the right priority in Ghana's health care. However, Ghana's government has now started to implement Zipline's drones and are hopeful that this will be one solution to poor health access in remote areas. Overall, drones are predicted to be a more frequently used tool in healthcare and the project is expected to spread to several countries around the world.

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