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Zipline Deploys Medical Delivery Drones with U.S. Military

We usually don’t toss around the word “disrupting” in a technology context without some serious eye roll. But Zipline really has been disrupting medical supply delivery in Africa by using drones to bypass busy roads and hilly terrain to deliver medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in minutes rather than hours. We visited Zipline in Rwanda last year, and the system it has for delivering blood, blood products, and medication is versatile, reliable, and even (in some cases) more affordable than any other delivery method available.

It’s not at all surprising that the unique capabilities Zipline offers have caught the attention of the U.S. military, which (at least in terms of personnel ratios) is primarily a massive logistics and support organization and secondarily a fighting force. For the past year or so, the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has been working with Zipline to evaluate how their technology could be used to help the U.S. Marines Corps. In July, Zipline deployed to Australia to participate in a joint military exercise to demonstrate “how its instant drone delivery capability could help save lives in austere and tactical emergency environments, which include live-fire artillery.”

Here’s what Zipline managed to pull off while operating from a single fulfillment center it built in just a week as part of the exercise:

  • 461 sorties and 381 deliveries, many in zones with active artillery fire
  • An increase of max payload to 2.044 kilograms
  • Delivered 24 units of mock blood in under 1.5 hours to a notional mass casualty scenario
  • Delivered 68 kg (150 lbs.) of product in under 3 hrs; and 50 kg (110 lbs.) of mock blood and water in under 4 hrs
  • 57 deliveries to 5 different locations in 6.3 hrs
  • Night-time deliveries to units doing night operations
  • Endurance flight deliveries with flight times over 80 minutes

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