This startup plans to start drone delivery of COVID vaccines from April

Medical drone delivery startup Zipline Inc., on Thursday, announced that it will commence the transportation of the COVID-19 vaccines via drones from April.

The San Francisco-based startup is strategically partnering with “a leading manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines” in all of the markets where its drones currently operate, the company said. 

While Zipline did not specify its vaccine partner, it informed of a system built by the company to facilitate the delivery of ultra-low temperature medical supplies, including “all leading COVID-19 vaccines.”

The vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE require an extremely cold temperature of -70 degree Celsius. Thus, Zipline plans to add these ultra-cold refrigerators at all of its distribution centres.

Many vaccine distribution sites without ultra-low refrigeration are unable to use the low-temperature vaccines and are compelled to opt Moderns Inc.’s vaccine or wait in the hopes for the vaccine from Jhonson & Jhonson and others who await approvals from FDA.

However, Zipline is eliminating the issue by helping companies bypass the need for freezers and yet prevent vaccines from spoiling by repeatedly supplying a small number of doses on demand.

As per the company, a clinic in its network can request a few dozen doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and receive them at an ultra-low temperature in less than an hour.

The company says it’s fixed-wing, battery-powered drones navigate by GPS and drop payloads of a few pounds each by parachute and can fly up to 100 miles round trip.

A single distribution site can operate dozens of drones and supply an area of up to 8,000 square miles. Its drones have flown more than 4 million miles and made nearly 400,000 deliveries in the last five years; the company added. 

The company wants to help rural areas that have been hard hit by the coronavirus. Where you live shouldn’t determine whether or not you get a COVID-19 vaccine. We can help health systems bypass infrastructure and supply chain challenges through instant delivery.”

~ Keller Rinaudo, CEO, Zipline

Zipline has been delivering medicine and supplies to rural clinics in Rwanda and Ghana since 2016 and, last year began delivering personal protective equipment to hospitals and clinics in North Carolina. It plans to add operations in Nigeria later this year.

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