How Zipline Plans to Revolutionize Medical Supply Delivery


Zipline is a new startup company with a focus on the development of drone transportation technology. Their intention is to use drones for delivering medical supplies in danger zones and locations which are remote or difficult to access by any other means. Instead of using this technology to aid war efforts it is being directed towards humanitarian purposes to get life saving products to the people who are the most in need of them. The company is new but is making amazing progress in its fundraising efforts and their plans for the future may well revolutionize the way that medical supplies are delivered.

Who is Zipline?

Zipline is based out of California’s Silicon Valley. Keller Rinaudo is the CEO and co-founder of the company. He, Will Hetzler and Keenan Wyrobek initiated the start of the company in 2011. The purpose of using automated transportation in the form of drones is to deliver medical supplies quickly and more inexpensively. The founders became aware of the problem that over two billion people do not have access to the essential medical supplies that could keep them healthier and save their lives.

Nearly three million children die under these circumstances annually. The major reason for this disparity is that the people most at risk are those in remote locations and it is very difficult to get traditional forms of transport in without a large expense. Drones offer a financially viable alternative and the goal of Zipline is to provide medical transport through drone delivery.

This will in fact change the way that medical supplies are delivered and increase the volume of products which are delivered. It will also reduce the amount of time that is required for medical personnel to access the supplies which are so desperately needed. The company was officially founded as Zipline in 2014.

Staffing and partnerships

Some of the finest engineers in the country are involved with the development of Zipline medical delivery drones. Former employees of SpaceX, NASA and Boeing of the aerospace industry are now working on the development of this life saving technology. They have formed an agreement with Rwanda’s ministry of health and are now in line for providing medical delivery services in that country. They have also partnered with the National Center of Blood Transfusion and will rush urgently needed blood to the areas where it has previously been difficult to deliver.

The most concentrated focus of delivery will be upon getting fresh and clean blood to women who are giving birth as this has been noted as one of the leading contributors to death in the region. Emergency delivery services will now be possible. Along with blood, vaccines and other supplies may also be transported in the same payload.


The company is currently backed by investors which include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Sequoia Capital and Google Ventures. Zipline has raised eighteen million dollars to date. At last count, Zipline has secured a total of $25 million dollars in funding through a series B round of funding lead by Visionnaire Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and a few others.

Obstacles and solutions

The most significant problem affecting Zipline’s development of their drone transportation technology are the federal regulations which have been put into place. This inhibits its use in the United States but there are no such rules in Rwanda which is a plus. Engineers are currently testing the drones to attempt to achieve maximum payload capacity, the learn how wind and other weather elements affect performance and other details which could affect functions when in use on a mission. Working out all of the kinks now is vital to the development of a fleet of drone transports which will serve as reliable vehicles for the delivery of urgently needed medical supplies.

Launched on their first official missions

The official launch date for the first drone delivery service for medical supplies was October 14, 2016. In cooperation with the government of Rwanda, the service started devlivery of blood and medical supplies throughout half of the country.

The future of Zipline

Drone delivery is a brand new concept and Zipline is the first company to actually create a medical supply delivery service. It is in its infancy, but the things that we do know are that it is filling a necessary gap for getting essential and life saving medical supplies to the people who need them. It offers the solution to the problem of remote delivery services. We believe that Rwanda is just the starting place for this service. Plans are already underway for the development of a network of airports which will be customized for drone flights and delivery systems. This type of an infrastructure will increase efficiency of the entire operation and it is expected to be completed by 2020.

Zipline has just recently made an agreement with Gavi, a medical vaccine distributor and UPS to develop a fleet of fifteen drones for a total of one hundred and fifty deliveries of medical supplies daily. The craft will fly out of a centralized hub and will work with twenty one medical stations throughout the western part of Rwanda. The plans include a continuous development in this region and once established, a continuation of expansion into other parts of the country. This groundbreaking new service has the potential for lowering the death rates in this country significantly. When medical personnel are in need of emergency medical supply delivery, it can be accomplished with a simple text through drone technology.

Final thoughts

Zipline has just introduced a new mode of delivery to remote areas that has the potential to revolutionize medical supply delivery systems around the globe. While it is still new to the market, it has the earmarks of being successful. The expectations are that the market will open to the service after a trial period shows that it can be successful. Rwanda will be the proving ground that could open doors to other markets where autonomous delivery is the only viable option. As airports are established, the efficiency of this type of delivery service are expected to improve with great strides.

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