- San Francisco Bay-area drone startup Zipline has inked a deal with the Rwandan government to deliver essential medical supplies across the country.
- Beginning in July, a fleet of 15 all-weather drones will ferry blood products to 21 transfusing centers in Rwanda hospitals and clinics, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.
- Backing the robotics company is $18 million in funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, Sequoia Capital, GV, SV Angel, Stanford University, and others.
“Getting medicines to remote places is both a huge market and a global challenge,” Zipline co-founder Keller Rinaudo told USA Today. He said about half the cases doctors he spoke with see are mothers hemorrhaging after giving birth. Another 30% are children with malaria.
Zipline is planning up to 150 flights a day, using 22-pound, battery-powered drones to carry up to 3.5 pounds of supplies to sites as within a 75-mile roundtrip range.
The fixed-wing aircraft have a wingspan of eight feet and are launched via catapult. A SIM card guides the flight, while GPS receivers guide the parachute-attached payload to the pickup site once the drone reaches its destination.
“We believe that using cutting edge technology to allow supply chains to operate independently of existing infrastructure represents a huge opportunity for our country,” Jean Philbert Nsengimana, minister of youth and ICT, said in a press release.
Five-year-old Zipline’s goal is to replicate the deal in other countries in the developing world.