Humanitarian delivery drones

A maker of delivery drones called Zipline International  began nationwide delivery of blood and other critical medical supplies in Rwanda today, through a partnership with the Rwandan government.

Executives at the startup prefer to call their technology “flying robots,” “small planes,” or “Zips” and not drones. That’s because they use a fixed-wing, rather than quadcopter or other multi-rotor design. Quadcopters are the default image people get when you say “drone,” now, as they’ve become mainstream in consumer electronics.

Other startups, including Matternet and Flirtey, have created multi-rotor drones to deliver everything from food and building supplies to medicine and biological samples.

According to co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo, the fixed-wing design of Zipline’s drones allows them to fly greater distances on less power than any quadcopter design, and allows them to launch and fly reliably through variable weather.

That detail is critical when you’re flying in areas of the world that do not have the infrastructure to allow frequent recharging, he said. The Zips are also battery-powered, so they don’t have to be refueled where it’s hard to find any reliable supply of diesel. Zipline CTO and co-founder Keenan Wyrobek said the company expects to get 1,500 flights out of each of its small planes before they need a new battery.

[Tech Crunch]

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