Zipline, a California-based startup which uses drones to deliver medicine and blood to remote areas, has decided to start its delivery program in the United States. A lot of people in the world lack adequate access to essential medical products, such as blood and vaccines, due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure. Zipline improves access to these supplies by flying over impassable mountains and washed-out roads, delivering directly to clinics. It makes sure that every human gets access to basic health amenities irrespective of where they live.
Founded three years ago in 2014, the startup first started its medical supplies delivery program in Rwanda, Africa under a government partnership, and will be operational in half of the country by the end of the July. This week, it announced the commencement of its delivery program in the US at a White House workshop on unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs). Zipline has decided to make its program initially available to rural and remote communities in United States’ Maryland, Nevada, and Washington, including some Native American reservations.
The unique concept of Zipline has got several tech big weights and VCs interested. This includes support from some of the biggest venture capital firms out there such as Google Ventures and Sequoia Partners, as well as capital support from Paul Allen, best known as the Microsoft co-founder.
Keeping in mind the nature of the service they’re providing, Zipline makes it services available 24×7 in all weather conditions. A Zipline Distribution Center is capable of delivering medical supplies to any site within 75 km (150 km round trip), even with high winds, downpours, and tall mountains. Its custom-designed fixed-wing airplane, called “Zips,” can fly farther, faster, and in more inclement weather conditions than a quadcopter can, enabling service to facilities 10 times as far.
In order to ensure that it services can reach as many people as possible, Zipline provides a modern ordering portal where people can access their services through a simple phone call, WhatsApp, or order through their website.
According to Zipline, instead of first launching their services in their home country US, they started with Rwanda as it was much easier to pass all the legal regulations and rules their. But, Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new rules that it announced a month ago in June made it easier for commercial drone operators to receive flight authorisation, and played an instrumental role in making its US launch dream come true.
For its US launch, the startup has collaborated with three health care companies — Ellumen, ASD Healthcare, and Bloodworks Northwest. A Zip is capable of carrying up to three pounds of blood or medicine, and can fly for up to 75 miles on a single charge.
Zipline isn’t the only company delivering medical drugs to people using drones. Companies like Flirtey and Matternet have also developed similar drone delivery systems. In fact, Flirtey successfully completed its first FAA-approved drone delivery after flying drugs to a medical center in rural Virginia last year.