Zipline got its start six years ago using its autonomous electric drones to deliver blood in Rwanda. Now, the logistics and drone delivery startup is expanding its Rwandan government partnership with a lofty aim: complete nearly 2 million instant deliveries and fly more than 200 million autonomous kilometers in the country by 2029.
The government of Rwanda and Zipline announced Thursday an expanded partnership that will add new delivery sites in rural and urban locations throughout the country — a move that is expected to triple its delivery volume.
The idea is to use Zipline to shore up Rwanda’s healthcare supply chain, address malnutrition and support the country’s eco-tourism industry, according to Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi, who touted this as a “national drone service.”
Deliveries will now include medicine, medical supplies, nutrition and animal health products. It also will give any government agency access to Zipline’s services, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, the Rwanda Development Board, the Rwanda Medical Supply and the National Child Development Agency.
The deal is validation for Zipline and could help it convince other countries to make similar nationwide partnerships. Zipline operates within Ghana, the U.S., Nigeria and Japan, and will be launching operations in Côte D’Ivoire and Kenya soon, according to the company. This is the first time a government has tapped Zipline to provide a national drone service.
Zipline, which was founded in 2014, developed the entire ecosystem, from the drones and logistics software to launch and landing system. Its operations were limited in the beginning, starting in Rwanda with a focus on blood and vaccines and then expanding into Ghana. In the past year, the company has expanded its operational footprint and delivery volume — growth that was powered in part by $250 million in venture capital. (The company has raised $486 million to date.)
Zipline has delivered more than 450,000 packages to date, with 215,000 deliveries occurring this year alone. The company has also snagged a number of partnerships in the past two years that signals aspirations to expand within and beyond healthcare. Zipline has partnerships with Toyota Group and UPS, it delivers medical equipment and personal protective gear for Novant Health in North Carolina and health and wellness products for Walmart.