Drones are coming. One of the best-known drone startups on the planet, Zipline, has raised USD 190 Mn in funding at a USD 1.2 Bn valuation.
The medical supplies-delivery business now fain and in the saddle to expand is airborne services in Africa, the Americas, to South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
The scramble for the skies is something that has seen a lot of investments, and Africa is not left out of the game. Many drone startups from the four focal points of the continent – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa – have received significant funding in the past few years.
Africa-focused Zipline, on its end, plans to serve 700 million people with its drones within the next five years. Africa. There are 1.2 billion people in the continent, so this major player is definitely champing at bit to double down its services in the region.
The San Francisco-based logistics company aims to begin deliveries in medical supplies in the United States, with an initial focus on North Carolina, where it has obtained a license from the FAA to expand.
Co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo who established the drone startup alongside Kenna Wyrobek and William Hetzler said that the new investment would stump for Zipline delivery hubs at 2,600 health facilities in Rwanda and Ghana by the end of 2019.
The UAV manufacturer and logistics services provider launched a program in Ghana a month ago, for drones to deliver medical supplies to health centers in different parts of the West Africa country, making it the world’s largest autonomous medical drone-delivery services.
In collaboration with the Ghanaian government, Zipline said it would operate 30 drones out of four distribution centers to supply vaccines, blood and lifesaving medications to 2,000 health facilities across the country daily, covering an area that serves almost 22 million people.
“We’ll do 600 flights a day…and serve 12 million people. This is going to be the largest drone delivery network on the planet,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said in a comment.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need in an emergency. That’s why Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service, a major step towards giving everyone in this country universal access to lifesaving medicine”.
Healthcare logistics is a USD 70 Bn global industry, and in a country such as Rwanda where by-road delivery is hamstrung by bad access and traffic congestion, drones are already delivering pints of blood and saving lives of Rwandans.
On-time delivery of medical products is afforded, especially in cases of emergencies, thanks to the efforts of Zipline.
The startup launched operations in the East African country three years ago. Scarcely two years down the line, Zipline has already completed over 13,000 deliveries spanning 12 regional hospitals in the countryside of Rwanda, flying more than 1 million km.
The drones deployed have also totted up over 5,500 units of blood deliveries to patients in dreadful need of blood transfusion.
In this 2018 interview, Keller said: “Some of the biggest, most powerful technology companies in the world are still trying to figure out how to do this. But East Africa is showing them all the way.
“The work in Rwanda has shown the world what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand healthcare access with drones and help save lives.”