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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Zipline: Saving Life With Autonomous Machines

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Whereas other drone-delivery startups put their focus on the delivery of packages or food, Zipline International, a California-based company decided to take a completely different route and opted to save lives instead.

This start-up has been flying autonomous delivery machines since October 2016 in Rwanda delivering blood as well as other medical supplies rapidly to patients. With most of Rwanda’s terrain and that of other undeveloped countries is difficult to navigate through, Zipline helped in solving this crisis thus ensuring patients still get the needed medical supplies.

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According to Keller Rinaudo, the CEO of Zipline, Zipline supplies medical goods to Rwanda, a country with an approximate size of 10,000 sq. Mi. to many of the millions of residents in the state. It is especially crucial in supplying medical products to the residents who live outside the more densely populated regions around the country’s capital, Kigali.

Subsequently, 20% of the blood supply in Rwanda is delivered by the Zipline, this enough proof of the tremendous impact this technology has had on this nation.

How Does Zipline’s Autonomous Delivery Machine Work?

Zipline Autonomous Machines

Whether it is raining or sunny, Zipline offers you a smooth delivery service, with the company managing all facets of the service delivery sensibly and in detail, thereby allowing you to focus on your patient’s health. So, below is a step by step process of how to get Zipline’s services.

  1. Make an order by text message. Usually, as a health worker, all you need to do is to send a text order while at a remote hospital and clinic for the medical supplies you need on demand.
  2. Packed in Minutes: The medical supplies usually are stored centrally at the Zipline Distribution Center thus allowing immediate access to even the rarest or sensitive items. Moreover, these products are then packaged then prepared for flight, and maintain a cold-chain thereby maintaining the product’s integrity.
  3. The launch of the Zipline. Within a few minutes, health workers receive a confirmation message that their order has successfully been launched. Additionally, with the Zipline travelling for over 100km/h, the supplies arrive quicker than other modes of transport with no pilot necessary.
  4. Direct delivery. In less than thirty minutes, the medical products will be gently delivered by parachute into a designated location the size of a few parking spaces. Consequently, the health workers get a notification via text message that their package has arrived.
  5. Recovery. Typically, Zipline drones only land in the Distribution Center to make a quick pit stop, then takes off again, and at the remote clinics, no infrastructure is necessary.

Advantages of the Zipline’s Autonomous Delivery Machines

Being the first country where the Zipline technology was put in place, Rwanda has enjoyed numerous benefits of implementing this technology. Additionally, the company has further advanced its services as a result of the thousands of deliveries and testing, hence improving its service delivery.

Some of the benefits of this technology include;

  1. Zipline operates both during the day and at night, thus guaranteeing every patient in the country access to medicine whatever time it is they require medication or blood.
  2. Since the Zipline drones travel at speeds of up to 80MPH, it makes its deliveries within 30 minutes or less, hence very convenient since medical supplies are accessible to patients promptly.
  3. With a carrying capacity of 1.8 kilograms, the autonomous delivery machine can carry an adequate amount of medical supplies in one trip.
  4. On a single charge, the Zipline autonomous delivery machine travels up to 80 kilometers, and this big radius broadens the number of individuals who it can serve.
  5. Whether it is sunny or rainy, deliveries made by the Zipline are still possible, therefore proving this to be a reliable mode of transporting medical supplies since weather changes do not affect the access to vital medical products.

Implementation of Better Innovative Technology by Zipline

Zipline’s CEO says the African experience has necessitated Zipline to carry a complete overhaul of its logistics systems, not just its drones.

Subsequently, the company has renovated all the distribution centers where the loading and storing of the drones was done, plus making use of computer-vision technology to help with pre-flight inspections. These, as well as other changes, has seen the time between receiving an order and getting a drone into the air being slashed from ten minutes to one minute.


Additionally, Zipline intends to make use of faster autonomous delivery machines and this, together with the efficient launch-and-recovery system; the company will now manage at least 500 flights in a single day from just one of its many centers.

It is a significant increase from its previous 50 trips a day, and these new autonomous delivery machines can also serve a larger area while still carrying a bulkier load.

Expansion Plans by Zipline

Due to the company’s success in Rwanda, Zipline intends to expand this autonomous delivery machine to its neighboring country Tanzania, and the possibility of moving to populous nations like the United States.

Zipline’s CEO Rinaudo says the company is aiming to start its operations in six states in the US, although he declined to reveal which states, these are and plans to commercialize its operations by charging for its deliveries.

He further states that the company’s history of proven deliveries nationwide will be an advantage as they seek for FAA approval after its first pilot program commences, which possibly will be before the end of 2018.

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