Zipline is the first company that has designed and uses drones (Zips) to deliver and carry vaccines, medicine and blood. A fleet of Zips is able to care for a population of millions and is currently operational in Rwanda.
Focus: Healthcare, Technology
Geographic Area of Impact: Rwanda (Tanzania Q1 2017)
Model: Social Innovation Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 6,000,000 (since Oct 2016)
Annual Budget: USD $7,000,000 (2016)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 42% (2016)
The Social Problem
Despite many recent successes in global public health, delivering medical care has been one of the biggest challenges. Moving supplies in remote areas via ground transport remains difficult, expensive, and slow. One of the biggest underlying problems is the quality of the roads. Even more economically productive countries like Kenya and Tanzania have limited paved road infrastructure: only 7% and 8.2% of their respective roads are paved (CIA Factbook). During the rainy season, they are vulnerable to becoming impassable altogether and can threaten to trap expensive vehicles and the cargo they carry. The cost of transporting medical supplies (goods in general) in Africa is two to three times the cost in developed countries (World Bank).
Innovation and Activities
Over the last five years, Zipline has specifically designed Zips (drones) bringing urgent medical supplies to medical centres in Rwanda, its first country of operations. The system works as follows: A health worker places an order by text message or email. Within minutes, a Zip is prepared and launched. Racing along at 100 km/h, a Zip arrives faster and cheaper than any other mode of transport, no pilot required. The fleet of Zips is run on a tracking system that elaborates the best route and tracks the successful delivery. The medical products are then dropped off with a small parachute, landing gently and accurately at the health facility in a predetermined area. Through a partnership with the Government of Rwanda, Zipline delivers medical products, such as blood and vaccines, for twenty hospitals and health centers, improving timely access to needed supplies for millions of Rwandans. Thanks to Zip’s unprecedented range and speed of delivery, a cold-chain is not required to maintain the vaccine quality. Any other means of transportation requires expensive cooling.
Zipline has been conceptualizing, designing and testing the fleet in Rwanda since 2011, and conducted more than 7000 autonomous flights to date – more than any drone operator in the world. In October 2016 it crossed a significant threshold: its first delivery center opened and its $350,000 annual contract with the Rwandan government went into force as it commenced the first of 8600 guaranteed deliveries, achieving 50% population coverage in the first year. Zipline’s per delivery pricing model costs $15 - $45, depending on the product weight, urgency, distance, and value of the cargo, which is on average 20% less expensive than traditional transport and delivered 20x faster.
Zipline’s additional revenue streams include data rights. For example, UPS and GAVI have invested $800,000 for access to the engineering data of the drones, including their reliability, flight patterns, safety, battery logs, efficiency, and life cycle. A second distribution centre is slated to open in Q1 2017 and the Rwandan Government signed a four-year contract with Zipline to deliver additional medical products from mid-2017 onwards. As part of the contract, Zipline shares the data with the Rwandan Ministry of Health so that the Ministry can determine how efficiently clinics respond to emergencies and incentivize improvements. In order to finance its development, production, research and operations Zipline has raised $44 million in equity since 2011 from venture capitalists including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen, Horowitz, and Google Ventures.
Keller serves as Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Zipline International. Prior to Zipline, he was the Co-Founder of Romotive Inc., building robots that use smartphones as their brains. Mr. Rinaudo founded JobSpice in 2009. Mr. Rinaudo is the Founder of Harvard Climbing Wall and served as its Executive Director from 2006 to 2009. He served as an Associate of Boston Consulting Group from 2009 to 2010. He was a Researcher of FAS Center for Systems Biology from 2006 to 2008. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and AB in Social Studies from Harvard University.
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