In a bid to improve the healthcare sector, the Lagos State Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zipline International Inc, a Silicon Valley drone startup, to offer a drone-enabled supply solution in the health sector.
Zipline is a robotics airplane manufacturer based in California focusing on delivering medical supplies to undeveloped and underdeveloped areas.
According to the State’s Commissioner of Science and Technology, Mr Hakeem Fahm, the drones to be acquired would be used to ensure secured, reliable and timely deliveries of essential health care products to publicly-owned hospitals and other health facilities in the State.
Drones can be of great importance in the health sector in Nigeria taking into consideration that medical professionals from emergency responders in large hospitals face a host of challenges everyday—challenges unmanned aircraft systems, can help overcome.
With the use of Drones, it is possible to deliver blood, vaccines, birth control, snake bite serum and other medical supplies to communities or rural areas and also have the ability to reach victims who require immediate medical attention within minutes, which in some cases could mean the difference between life and death. They can transport medicine within hospital walls and courier blood between hospital buildings faster and more efficiently than humans would do. The United Nations has employed 5-foot drones to air drop condoms over rural parts of Ghana, where a fraction of women have access to contraceptives. Other countries — including Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Mozambique — are also considering adopting the use of drones to ensure deliveries that once took days can be made in mere minutes. Doctors Without Borders have already used them in Papua New Guinea to transport dummy TB test samples from a remote village to the large coastal city of Kerema.
After the recent fire accident that took lives and properties, the state has been trying her best to ensure safety and improve on its response to emergency. According to a 2017 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in some cases, drones could carry defibrillators to heart attack victims faster than an ambulance. Researchers simulated emergency situations and found they could get automatic external defibrillators to the scene an average of 16 minutes faster by drone than by ambulance.
However, taking a clue from the last accident, the firemen could not quench the fire on time due to the traffic which led to widespread and lost of properties. This might be one of the reasons the state government decided to invest in this acquisition of drones. Truth be told, there will always be traffic in Lagos state because of the population.
Meanwhile, this would be not be the first effort by Zipline, as the Silicon Valley Drone startup launched the world’s first National Drone delivery operation in Rwanda when it partnered with the Government in 2016 to deliver medical supplies to its hospitals. The company established a distribution center with 15 drones to deliver blood, plasma and platelets to twenty one hospitals across the western half of the country. Since launching the service in Rwanda, Zipline has flown 300,000 km, delivering 7,000 units of blood over 4,000 flights, approximately a third of which have been in emergency life-saving situations and is now delivering more than 20% of Rwanda’s blood supply outside of the capital, Kigali.
A representative of Zipline, Mr. Diekoye Oyeyinka adds that Lagos will be the first mega city in the world to have an autonomous instant delivery system, when it is fully deployed.