Zipline’s drone delivery service kicks off in Kaduna, Nigeria

In 2021, the drone delivery service company raised $250 million. The company stated that it will be focusing on the expansion of its logistics networks in Africa as well as the United States.

Announcing its launch on Friday, Daniel Marfo, the company’s senior vice president for Africa said “We are bringing instant logistics of essential medical products to one of the most challenging states logistically.”

Zipline will use drones for on-demand delivery of vaccines, blood products, and other life-saving medication. Aside from the first centre—which houses a small take-off and landing airspace for Zipline’s autonomous drones—, Zipline is expected to launch two more centres in Kaduna state which will be capable of microtargeting the delivery of over six tons of medical products across 46,000 square kilometres per week.

Zipline will soon launch in Cross River, Nigeria and the Niger Delta. Zipline will offer its services in Nigeria, the third African country. In 2016, the company started operations in Rwanda, as of 2021, Zipline reached 200,000 commercial deliveries and catered for 75% of the blood needs outside Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. It also offers services in Ghana.

Prior to Zipline’s launch in Nigeria, LifeBank has been actively involved in blood and sample delivery across the country. However, compared to LifeBank’s quadcopters, the miniature unmanned aircrafts used by Zipline are faster and less energy-consuming.

Zipline’s reaction to insecurity in Kaduna

The partnership between Zipline and the Kaduna State Government was signed in 2021, just before the launch. Governor Nasir El Rufai stated that it will increase the state’s capacity to provide health services. While this is impressive, questions about the height of insecurity in Nigeria’s North-Western region have been a concern.

Despite a ₦1.2 billion Aerial Monitoring System launched by the Kaduna state government in 2019 and the presence of the most critical Nigerian military establishments in the state, insecurity has remained a major challenge in the state in recent times.

These institutions include the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), 1 Infantry Division Command and Staff College and Nigerian Army School of Infantry(NASI), both at Jaji, Nigerian Army School of Artillery and Nigerian Navy School of Armament Technology (NASA) both at Kachia, Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology and Nigerian Military School and Nigerian Army School of Military Police in Zaria.

Gunmen attacked Kaduna Airport in March and killed staff members of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. The same month saw gunmen launch another attack on a train via the Kaduna–Abuja railway, just months after an identical attack in October 2021. These attacks, along with the continued kidnapping of Kaduna highway travellers, highlight the state of insecurity.

“We’re aware of how difficult it is to transport medicines across Kaduna due to incidences of banditry, insecurity, and instability. A military convoy is required to transport a few medical supplies from Kaduna to the west of Kaduna. You can find the following: [residents] there are really in a very difficult position,”  Marfo said.

Zipline is positive about its state-wide success. Marfo told Quartz that “In the worst-case scenario when someone shoots one down, you cannot use it for anything.” The drones fly high enough to be out of sight from potential vandals.

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