Last month’s announcement that Keller Rinaudo’s start-up had developed the fastest delivery drone in the world didn’t make huge headlines in the United States and your usual-suspect tech countries. But it did in Rwanda. That’s because the East African country has been the focus of much of Rinaudo’s work in designing and testing drones he calls Zips, which quickly deliver urgent medical supplies to hospitals and clinics.
Since first launching a national drone delivery operation there in 2016, Rinaudo and his company, Zipline, have racked up some impressive statistics. Their Zips have flown nearly 200,000 miles to deliver 7,000 units of blood (as well as medicine and vaccines) over 4,000 flights, almost one-third of which have been in emergency life-saving situations. That’s been especially welcome in Rwanda, where unpaved roads, tropical rainstorms and hilly, high-altitude geography make conventional deliveries challenging. A Zipline delivery from the capital of Kigali to the remote Muhororo District Hospital takes 17 minutes, for instance, versus four hours by truck.
Last year, Rinaudo expanded Zipline to neighboring Tanzania, with a planned scale capable of making 2,000 deliveries a day to more than 1,000 health facilities. With the unveiling of the new drone — capable of flying at a top speed of nearly 80 miles per hour and a cruising speed of 62 miles per hour — he’s setting his sights even farther. “In East Africa, Zipline’s drones bring people the medicine they need, when they need it,” Rinaudo says. “We’ve taken everything Zipline has learned making thousands of life-critical deliveries and redesigned our entire system and operation from top to bottom. Our new aircraft and distribution center system will help us scale to meet the needs of countries around the world — including the United States.”
PHOTO ABOVE: Keller Rinaudo, co-founder and CEO, and Keenan Wyrobek, co-founder and head of Product & Engineering, Zipline
PHOTO: Boris Zharkov