Drone delivery is not yet as popular in the United States as some might like, but it’s a booming business in other parts of the world. Zipline is one of the companies leading the charge, and right now, it’s mainly doing business in Africa.
For those who might be wondering, Zipline is a California-based robotics company that has managed to put itself on the radar by delivering blood via drones in Rwanda. The company recently announced that it has plans to kick start business in Tanzania by early 2018.
Zipline is hoping to work in close collaboration with the Tanzania Ministry of Health and the Medical Stores Department in a bid to open up to four distribution centers in the country over a four-year span. The idea here is to use drones to deliver blood to many public health locations in Tanzania.
Delivering blood is just the tip of the iceberg
The company is hoping it will get the go ahead in the future to provide regular medical supplies, HIV medication, vaccines, anti-malaria drugs, among others.
Keller Rinaudo, co-founder of Zipline, spoke in an interview with The Verge where he said the goal is to deliver medical products despite the fact that emergency restocks might not come off as exciting to some. He went on to add that medical supply delivery in emergency situations has been a problem for a hundred years, and global health experts have only been trying to fix it for the past 50-years.
Zipline launched its services for the first time in Rwanda in 2016, and so far, the company is experiencing relative successes. The launch is Rwanda’s first national drone delivery service, and this has allowed Zipline to accumulate over $35 million in funding.
Here’s the thing then, Rinaudo made it clear that his company has made 1,400 flights since going making its presence felt in the African country. So far, Zipline has delivered 2,600 units of blood, and a quarter of that number was produced for emergency cases.
Zipline builds its own drones
The impressive thing about this drone delivery company is the fact that it makes its own drones. The weight of the drones is around 25-pound, and they can fly up to fly up to 150 kilometers. Additionally, these devices, which are called Zips, can carry a payload of up to 1.5 kilograms.
Health organizations looking to have medical supplies delivered to their location can contact Zipline via mobile phones or even from WhatsApp. It takes around 30-minutes on average for supplies to be delivered, which isn’t too bad.
We’re guessing it depends on how far the destination is from Zipline’s location.
“The cool thing is now that we’ve shown that this can be done safely, operate at national safety levels,” Rinaudo said. “There’s a lot of evidence and data that we can show.”
The company is looking to deliver medical supplies in the United States, but drone regulation is much higher than in the African countries it’s currently doing business.