360 Video: Go on a Mission With Zipline’s Delivery Drones
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360 Video: Go on a Mission With Zipline’s Delivery Drones

September 22, 2019

In Rwanda, a California-based startup
called Zipline is pioneering a new use for drones,
delivering urgently needed blood to hospitals. Rwanda’s roads wind over
rough and hilly terrain, but this Zipline drone, seen here being prepared for
launch, can cut delivery times from hours to minutes. Hello my name is Israel and welcome to
Zipline’s distribution center here in Muhanga in Rwanda. This is the first
distribution center to do blood and medical product delivery to over, more
than 20 health facilities across the country and we are the first to do it in
the world on a national scale. What you see here is our operation area in on our
distribution center, and we currently serve 18 hospitals across the country
and we deliver them blood. We do between 20 and 30 deliveries a day. So we have a launcher here which pretty much catapults the drone from zero to a hundred
kilometer per hour. These are our Zips, we call them Zips here in Zipline. And what you can see are the bodies and they are made by line replaceable units
where we have the bodies, the wings, and the batteries on this side. And these are
smart chargers for the batteries. They both interact with our software but also
with our power system on the batteries themselves. On that side is the
fulfillment area where we receive and process orders for the facilities that
we serve. They pretty much place orders using the easiest way for them. It’s either an online portal, SMS, or over WhatsApp or they can
just call in and place their orders. And when we receive an order it’s packaged in
there, we receive it from that window, we put it on a Zip, and within less than ten
minutes it’s on the launcher and ready to go. And it flies between 15 to 30
minutes to reach the farthest hospital and comes back immediately here on
our base. We use this package to pack our product. It has this parachute that
helps the package to land smoothly whenever it is dropped from the the
plane and it has again this plastic air insert that helps the, that helps the
protection of our blood unit. So here we have plenty of our blood products. So they are requesting red blood cells O positive adult units. And then I have to put the wrapped unit into the box. It is done. Then I hand this package to the
flight operators. Zipline designed its drones to use
modular wings and fuselages that can be be easily swapped if a piece gets damaged. After loading the battery and blood payload staff move the drone to
the catapult. After confirming the drone’s flight plan
with the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, the supercapacitor-powered
13-meter-long electric catapult launches the drone to 100 km/h in half of a second on its way to a cruising altitude of 120 meters. Look up! A Zipline drone is
dropping its blood cargo by parachute at a hospital in the small town of Kinazi. It’s a bone-jarring hour drive to the hospital from Zipline’s distribution
center but the drone made the trip in just 14 minutes. The recovery system that we use is pretty much to be able to abruptly stop the trajectory of the Zip
when it’s flying in on a flight route. And we use a wire that’s between two
carbon fiber poles, and when the Zip is inbound the wires will stop its
trajectory using a tailhook that’s on the Zip. It’s about three centimeters
of precision. Staff disassemble the drone, and start
preparing for the next flight. Zipline recently opened its second
fulfillment center in Rwanda and has extended its contract with the Rwandan
government to begin delivering medicines and vaccines
to small health clinics. The company is also spreading its wings
to other African nations and has just started delivering
blood and medicines in Ghana. Back in the United States the company is currently working on a pilot project delivering medical supplies in
North Carolina. If Zipline can prove that its drone
delivery service works worldwide, packages of blood may soon be dropping
from the sky at a hospital near you.

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