Zipline (drone delivery)

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Zipline Inc
Privately held company
IndustryLogistics
GenreDelivery drone
Founded2011 (Romotive)[1] 2014 (Zipline)
FoundersKeller Rinaudo Keenan Wyrobek and William Hetzler
HeadquartersSouth San Francisco, California,
United States
Area served
Rwanda, Ghana
Number of employees
150–500[citation needed]
Websiteflyzipline.com

Zipline is an American medical product delivery company headquartered in South San Francisco, California that designs, builds, and operates drone aircraft. The company operates distribution centers in Rwanda and Ghana. The company began drone deliveries in Rwanda in 2016 and primarily delivers blood. In addition to whole blood, the drones deliver platelets, frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate. As of May 2019, more than 65% of blood deliveries in Rwanda outside of Kigali use Zipline drones. In Ghana, the company began using drones in April 2019 to deliver vaccines, blood and medicines.

History[edit]

The company was founded in 2011 as Romotive by Keller Rinaudo. Romotive produced an iPhone-controlled robotic toy called Romo. In 2014 Romotive shut down[2][3][4] and the company refocused on delivering medical supplies using drones. Co-founders Keenan Wyrobek and William Hetzler joined at this time.[5] In 2016, the company signed a deal with the Rwandan government to build a distribution center near Muhanga.[5] In April 2018, Zipline announced a second generation drone.[6] This second-generation drone was listed in Time's "Best inventions of 2018" list.[7] In April 2019, Zipline opened its first of four distribution centers in Ghana to supply 2,500 health facilities.[8] In May 2019, Zipline raised $190 million on a post money valuation of $1.2 billion.[9] In September 2019, musician Bono joined the board.[10] "Rural healthcare is a challenge in every country in the world including in the United States" said Rinaudo. "You now see much bigger and wealthier countries like the U.S. actually using Rwanda as a role model."[11] Zipline was named to CNBC's 2018 Disruptor 50 list.[12]

Drone[edit]

The company's drones are designed and built in-house.[13] Their drones can deliver medical supplies to anywhere within 80 km (50 mi) of a Zipline distribution center in under 45 minutes.[14] The drone cruises at a speed of 101 km/h (63 mph) at 400–500 metres (1,300–1,600 ft). The “Robin” model has an 80 km (50 mi) range while the newer “Sparrow” has a range of 120 km (75 mi)[15] and carries up to 1.75 kilograms (3.9 lb) of cargo.[14] Each hub is able to make 500 deliveries per day.[16] Zipline holds the record for the longest-range US based commercial drone delivery flight of 79 mi (127 km)[17] The drone has dual propellers for reliability, and can fly safely with only one operating propeller or motor. The drone also features a quickly replaced streamlined battery for rapid turnaround between flights.[18] It has an inner frame constructed out of carbon-fiber and an outer shell made of polystyrene.[18] The wing span has a length of 12 feet (3.7 m).[18] It is launched into flight with an electric launcher, with an acceleration from 0 to 70 miles per hour (0 to 113 km/h) in 0.33 seconds.[18]

Operations[edit]

Medical staff at remote clinics send orders via SMS, WhatsApp message, or a dedicated online portal and a confirmation message is returned. [19] Flight paths are predetermined and programmed using information from a 3D satellite map and manual ground surveys. [5] A controller at the base monitors all drones in flight. [20] In addition to whole blood, the drones deliver platelets, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate.[21] The location data is also sent to the country's main air traffic control system. [20] The drone is launched by a supercapacitor-powered electric catapult and returns by catching an arresting gear[22] [14] with a system to enhance GPS accuracy.[23] The drone does not land at the delivery site but drops the package with a parachute. A payload can land within a 5 m (16 ft) diameter landing zone. [5] The cost per delivery is the same as previous motorcycle service but more reliable.[24] Overall costs are reduced by supply chain optimization and waste minimization. [5]

Prominent shareholders[edit]

As of May 2019, Zipline has raised $225 million since it was founded.[25]

Locations[edit]

Ghana[edit]

In April 2019, Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo, announced the opening of a distribution center.[35] Vice President Mahamuda Bawumia launched the first Zipline drone to Tafo Hospital in Ghana on April 24, 2019. This first delivery contained yellow fever vaccines to prevent stock-out.[36] The drones will cover 500 health facilities within an 80 km (50 mi) range. [36] The company has a contract with Ghana to make 600 deliveries a day for four years at a cost of about $12.5 million.[36] Each distribution center will house 30 drones.[37][38] It operates three distribution centers in Ghana with another one planned in early 2020.[39]

In June 2019, Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) was delivered by Zipline to treat 113 students of Mangoase Senior High School suffering from acute diarrhoea. Within 20 minutes Zipline drone dispatched 125 doses ORS[40]

India[edit]

In September 2019, the state of Maharashtra announced that Zipline will delivery emergency medicine throughout the state. Zipline will start operations in early 2020 building to 10 distribution centers to cover 120 million citizens.[41]

Philippines[edit]

In December 2019, Bono announced that in Summer 2020 three distribution centers will be opened up in the Visayas, Philippines to cover hard-to-reach areas. [42]

Rwanda[edit]

The company operates two distribution centers in Rwanda [16][14] and began deliveries in Muhanga in late 2016.[5] Rwanda has a mountainous geography and poor road conditions making an aerial delivery system more efficient.[43] The cost of delivery via drone is reported to be comparable to conventional means by road especially in the cases of emergencies. This is largely due to the poor infrastructure conditions in Rwanda even though Rwanda is densely populated with a small landmass.[29] On December 21 2016, two year old Ghislane Ihimbazwe, was saved after she received an emergency delivery of two units of blood by a Zipline drone and is probably the first life saved. A second drone launching site was added in December 2018 in Kayonza, in the eastern part of the country.[44][8] The company hoped this would bring coverage to 80% of the country. [45] Kayonza is in a busy area with other flights and military camps which adds to the challenge of monitoring its drones.[44] As of September 2019, the company had made 20,000 blood deliveries and flown more than 1,000,000 km (620,000 mi).[8] As of May 2019, more than 65% of blood deliveries in Rwanda outside of the capital city Kigali use Zipline drones. [30]

United States[edit]

Zipline is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop rules for the operation of drones beyond the line of sight.[11][46] Zipline is establishing a site in Reno, Nevada to service seven hospitals to help with medical logistics in rural areas.[47]

Between July 30th and September 5th, 2019, Zipline partnered with the US and Australian militaries, delivering over 400 mock blood supplies during mass casualty simulations.[48]


Drone port locations[edit]

Droneports
Location Country Opened Notes
Muhanga Rwanda 2016 Located in the centre of the country
Kayonza Rwanda 2018 Located in the East of the country
Omenako Ghana April 19, 2019 Located in the East of the country[31]
Ashanti Mampong Ghana October 19, 2019 Located in the Southern-half of the country
Sefwi Wiawso Ghana in construction - Opening April 2020[15] Located in North West[31]
Kukua Ghana in construction - Opening March 2020[15] Near Walewale, in the North East Northeast of the country will serve 500 hospitals and Health Clinics [49]
Pune India planned early 2020[16]
Nandurbar India planned early 2020[16]
Visayas Philippines planned summer 2020[50] three planned distribution centers in this region

References[edit]

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