A startup Zipline is targeting at using drones for delivering medicine to rural places in developing countries.
Companies like DHL and Amazon are already testing drones for consumer goods deliveries in some developed countries but these companies are facing hurdles from regulators.
However, the founder of Zipline - Keller Rinaudo - says that his company wants to use drones for delivering life-saving medicines to rural regions of Africa. Rinaudo says that the Zipline drone looks more like a small airplane than a quadcopter.
According to Rinaudo, delivering medicine to rural places in Africa is a challenge and at the same time it is a big opportunity.
"About half the cases the doctors we spoke with see are mothers hemorrhaging after child birth and 30% are kids with malaria. There's nothing more precious than blood and medicine," says Rinaudo.
Zipline will start delivering medicines and blood through its 22-pound battery-operated Zip aircraft this July. Initially, the drones will be used for reaching remote clinics in Rwanda. The drones are capable of carrying up to 3.5 pounds of load. The Zip aircraft will be able to travel of up to 75 miles round trip.
The company's drones can also handle adverse weather conditions similar to traditional aircraft. Quadcopters may not work efficiently in in stormy skies.
The Zip drones will drop a parachute with the payloads at pre-determined landing zones, which eliminate the need of landing at a specific delivery site. The computer system installed on the drones can ensure accurate drop, while compensating for wind.
The drones have to be controlled and monitored via tablets and need to be launched using a powerful catapult.
The company suggests that many rural Rwandan outposts are not served on a regular basis due to roads ravaged by extreme conditions. Zipline is planning to have up to 150 flights each day, and its cost will be borne by the Rwandan government.
Rinaudo added that the cost of delivering via Zipline drones is the same as delivering through truck or motorcycle. However, Zipline aircraft can bear adverse weather conditions, which can result in speedy delivery of medicines.
Although Zipline will initially start serving Rwandan clinics, it plans to expand to other African countries later in 2016.
Rinaudo envisages Zipline service demand in European countries as well as in the U.S. but strict regulations in these regions may make it difficult for Zipline to operate.
The startup has already received funding of about $18 million from Yahoo's founder Jerry Yang, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and others.