Keller Rinaudo is a robotics entrepreneur who is showing the world how drone technology can be used to save lives. He is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Zipline, which delivers over 20% of the national blood supply of Rwanda outside the capital. Called a "visionary project" by the World Health Organization, "the new face of the aerospace industry" in The New York Times, and one of Business Insider's Startups to Watch in 2017, Zipline uses cutting-edge technology to leapfrog the absence of pre-existing infrastructure all over the globe and deliver medical necessities to healthcare professionals and their patients in the most remote parts of the world. Before founding Zipline, Keller was a software engineer with a special interest in robots and autonomous systems. A graduate of Harvard University, he built computers out of RNA and DNA that operate in human cells as molecular doctors and published this research in Nature Biotechnology, becoming one of the youngest first authors in that publication's history. He was also a nationally ranked professional rock climber.
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- For-profit Social Enterprise
- Artificial Intelligence; Future of Mobility; Drones; Supply Chain and Transport; Healthcare Delivery; Fourth Industrial Revolution; United States
- Areas of Impact
- Africa, Rwanda
Over the last five years, Zipline has specifically designed Zips (drones) to bring urgent medical supplies to medical centres in Rwanda, its first country of operations. The system works as follows: A health worker places an order by text message or email. Within minutes, a Zip is prepared and launched. Racing along at 100 km/h, a Zip arrives faster and cheaper than any other mode of transport, no pilot required. The fleet of Zips is run on a tracking system that choses the best route and tracks the successful delivery. The medical products are then dropped off with a small parachute, landing gently and accurately at the health facility in a predetermined area.
Through a partnership with the Government of Rwanda, Zipline delivers medical products, such as blood and vaccines, for 20 hospitals and health centres, improving timely access to needed supplies for millions of Rwandans. Thanks to Zip’s unprecedented range and speed of delivery, a cold-chain is not required to maintain vaccine quality.
Zipline has been conceptualizing, designing and testing the fleet in Rwanda since 2011, and has conducted more than 7,000 autonomous flights. In October 2016, it opened its first delivery centre; at the same time, it commenced the first of 8,600 guaranteed deliveries for the government, achieving 50% population coverage in the first year. Zipline’s per delivery pricing model is $15 - $45, depending on product weight, urgency, distance and value of the cargo, which is on average 20% less expensive than traditional transport and delivered 20-times faster. Zipline’s additional revenue streams include data rights.
In order to finance its development, production, research and operations, Zipline has raised $44 million in equity since 2011 from venture capitalists including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen, Horowitz, and Google Ventures.