The logistics company, Zipline, designs, manufactures and operates drones that deliver urgent medical supplies and other goods, such as vaccines or blood for transfusions. Health professionals in remote hospitals or health centers in Rwanda, where the company first tested its concept, order the medical products they need by SMS. The products, stored at Zipline’s distribution center, are packed and prepared for delivery, maintaining cold-chain and product integrity. The orders are then launched on robot aircraft that travel 100 km/h (over 60 miles/h), arriving at far-flung destinations within an average of 30 minutes. They are dropped by parachute while a text message notifies the hospital that the delivery has arrived. The drone then returns to the Zipline distribution center to be restocked for another of its 500 deliveries per day. Zipline operates every day of the year, day and night, rain or shine. Its delivery service radius to date is 80 km (about 50 miles).
According to the company, since it started operating in October 2016 in Rwanda, Zipline’s drones have flown about 300,000 km (more than 186,000 miles) in over 4,000 flights.
Zipline’s mission is to “bring life-saving medicine to the most difficult to reach places on the planet”. In April it launched what it calls the “fastest delivery drone in the world”, an autonomous fixed-wing style airplane that can fly at 128 km/h (almost 80 miles/hr). With this new aircraft and the company’s recent logistics system redesign, Zipline aims to expand its services globally.
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