If you want to see how delivery drones should work, look at Africa
Zipline, a Californian drone-delivery startup that has been delivering blood to Rwandan clinics since October, announced today that it’s expanding its operations into neighboring Tanzania.
This is an ambitious expansion from a company that has only been in operation a few months: At 364,900 square miles, Tanzania is roughly 35 times larger than Rwanda. Once Zipline is fully up and running in the country in early 2018, it expects to be able to make 2,000 deliveries per day to over 1,000 health facilities in Tanzania. CEO Keller Rinaudo told Quartz that Zipline has flown more than 1,400 flights—over 60,000 miles—to deliver 2,600 units of blood so far in Rwanda.
Zipline’s existing service in Rwanda works a lot like an Uber for blood: When a doctor or medical staffer at a clinic has a patient that needs blood, they send a WhatsApp message or log onto Zipline’s order site, and they’re sent a confirmation message saying a Zip (one of the company’s drones) is on its way. A drone is packed up and launched, and flies autonomously to the clinic at speeds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph). The average delivery time is about 20 minutes (though Rinaudo says the trips can be as short as five minutes or as long as 40 minutes, depending on how close the clinic is to one of Zipline’s facilities). Once the drone is within one minute of its destination, the orderer gets a text message to be on the lookout for their package. The drone then descends to about 35 feet, and drops the package in a pre-determined zone near the clinic. The packages have paper parachutes that allow them to gracefully descend, and the orderer can choose to catch the package, or let it land on the ground. The drone then returns to its base and gets ready for its next shipment. Full Story