Drones dropping medicine from the sky are coming to America – The Hill

Fly Zipline’s autonomous drones make medicine more accessible anywhere in the world.

IN ONE LOOK :


  • Billions of people around the world struggle to access essential medical products like blood and vaccines, in part because of a lack of sufficient infrastructure.
  • Fly Zipline has created drones to deliver medical supplies to vulnerable patients.
  • The waterproof glider drones have a wingspan of 12 feet and a payload capacity of nearly four pounds and they perform their missions without the assistance of a pilot.

Billions of people around the world struggle to access essential medical products like blood and vaccines, in part because of a lack of sufficient infrastructure. But those last-mile delivery logistics issues go away thanks to a company called Fly Zipline.

Fly Zipline is a medical drone delivery startup based in South San Francisco, California. The company was founded in 2014 with the goal of solving the world’s most complex medical access challenges using their autonomous drone delivery system. Although their headquarters are located in the heart of Silicon Valley, their work began in Rwanda.

“We started in Rwanda for two reasons,” Fly Zipline co-founder Keenan Wyrobek told The Hill. “The value we can deliver with this logistics service is incredibly high, and Rwanda’s public health system is incredibly data-driven and innovative. They had the wherewithal to make a very data-driven decision in a complex healthcare system and see very clearly for themselves why this type of on-demand medical supply logistics is transformative for their healthcare and the economy of their health system. That’s why we started in Rwanda.

When a mother bleeds during childbirth, readily available blood supplies are essential to save her life. And in many areas outside of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, Fly Zipline drones offer a solution to getting these mothers the vital blood they need in a timely manner. Zipline orders are filled quickly. Fulfillment centers can launch a drone less than five minutes after receiving an order on their app.

Through the use of a slingshot launch system, Zipline drones reach cruise speeds of 60 mph in just 0.3 seconds and can hover over 100 miles, creating a delivery range of 50 miles from the distribution center.

The waterproof glider drones have a wingspan of 12 feet and a payload capacity of nearly four pounds and they perform their missions without the assistance of a pilot. The drones use a GPS system to navigate autonomously between drop zones and distribution centers. Due to their glider design, they use less power to fly faster and farther than most of their quadcopter drone competitors.

But over the past decade, we’ve seen major US companies have limited success integrating drone delivery services into their operations. From food delivery businesses to e-commerce companies, the years of drone delivery promises and beta testing have yet to materialize into a commercially viable reality. So why is Fly Zipline not only successful, but rapidly expanding from its birthplace in Rwanda to territories like India and the United States?

“For me, starting Zipline started with following this very simple piece of advice that I had never followed in my career before,” says Wyrobek, “which was to go out into the world and find real humans with a meaningful problem that you want to resolve before you do any technology development.

This type of problem-solving philosophy is integral to business success. Where e-commerce giants and food delivery services tried to implement drones to speed up an already fast delivery process, Fly Zipline used their drones to solve a problem that only their drones could solve. And American companies have taken notice.

They have already partnered with companies like Walmart, Intermountain Health and Magellen RX to set up distribution centers in Arkansas and North Carolina.

They are equipped to serve vulnerable U.S. patients who need timely home delivery, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At the time of filming, Fly Zipline had made over 265,000 deliveries of successful drones.

“In the years to come, we will get to the point where you can [order an airdrop] directly from your own phone if you [fall off] your mountain bike ride,” says Wyrobek. “That’s absolutely where we’re headed.”

Published on April 01, 2022

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