Drone Deliveries Saving Lives in Rwanda


We’ve spilled lots of pixels on the coming age of drone deliveries, but in the U.S., it’s hardly a well-developed concept. Airspace and regulatory burdens still stymy progress. But not in Rwanda. A company called Zipline has been remarkably successful in Rwanda delivering blood and medicine by drone to hospitals throughout the country. In this video by Mark Rober, Zipline’s operation and developmental plans are detailed and explained. Rwanda is about the size of Maryland and the entire country is covered by an autonomous drone system that has, during the past six years, conducted more than 500,000 drone flights, without a single injury to anyone on the ground. Most encouragingly, Rober reports on the optimistic ethos the country has developed after the bloody genocide of 1994.


  1. This was a complete eye-opener on so many levels – a great piece by Mark Rober. How have we not heard more about the innovative noise reducing blade technology that was demonstrated? And seeing the pace of operations and integration with the pharmacy/blood delivery center was incredible – Exhibit A for what drones can do in areas not served by major ground infrastructure. 10m views in less than 48 hours must be getting close to a YouTube record?

  2. I hope AvWeb continues to feature new applications of drone/electric powerplant tech. This is just one outstanding example of how new engineering can contribute to modern aviation. As my O-360 creeps up on TBO, I’m very interested in finding a replacement powerplant that leverages 21st century innovations in ICE, but I remain hopeful that my RV-7 could someday be powered electrically or at least by hybrid means. Fingers crossed.

    • A-men David. I’m not optimistic that the energy density equation will be solved before my old Lyc. reaches TBO, but I hope to see it in my lifetime. At least as intriguing as the environmental benefits is the idea of replacing all those moving parts with something not much more complicated than an alternator.

  3. Zipline has been a leader in developing new technologies. This is a segment from a piece I wrote last year for AOPA. (The whole story is here: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2022/june/09/movers-shakers-electric-aircraft-makers)

    Zipline, an established drone manufacturer that has been moving blood and health care products in Ghana, Rwanda, and other countries in Africa, announced it has been secretly testing an acoustic-based aircraft avoidance system for more than six months on thousands of flights. The Detection and Avoidance (DAA) system, developed after years of research and testing of various aircraft noise signatures, can detect an aircraft—by make and model—within a two-mile radius of one of its drones, allowing the drone to maneuver to avoid a conflict. “DAA is the linchpin of scaling instant delivery in the United States and globally,” said Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO of Zipline. “We envision a future in which this system becomes the industry standard for all commercial autonomous aircraft to fly safely.” The hardware has already been built into Zipline’s drones and is ready to be activated for use in many regions upon regulatory approval.

    Rinaudo said Zipline’s drones have been operating in all sorts of weather, including thunderstorms, dust, and snow. In addition to Africa, the compnay has been operating near Bentonville and will soon have 28,000 stock-keeping units in its system from Walmart and will be expanding its delivery options.