Credit: Zipline drone on a launch pad at operations center in Muhanda, Rwanda. (photo: James Akena/Reuters/Newscom).

No Roads? No Problem: The Leapfrogging Drones of Rwanda

January 12, 2018

[caption id="attachment_22375" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Zipline drone on a launch pad at operations center in Muhanda, Rwanda. (photo: James Akena/Reuters/Newscom).[/caption]

What’s the best solution to a lack of infrastructure? Find a solution that doesn’t require infrastructure. That’s what Zipline has done in Rwanda—a start-up that deploys drones to make emergency medical deliveries to remote hospitals and clinics.

“Obviously in instances where Zipline can make a delivery to a place that wouldn't otherwise be reachable by roads, that's a good example of leapfrogging over the absence of infrastructure,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said.

In this podcast, Rinaudo and Chief Revenue officer Matthew Steckman say Rwanda offered an opportunity to partner with a government that had a specific vision for how automated and instant delivery could have a meaningful impact.

“By working together, we were essentially able to show that this technology can actually make it possible to increase access to really crucial medical products while actually reducing waste and saving lives,” Rinaudo said.

He credits the Rwandan government for its willingness to experiment with new technology to solve a development issue.

“Other countries are seeing what was accomplished in Rwanda and are following their lead,” he said.

Steckman said the technology Zipline uses has incredible potential for archipelago nations, as well as countries in the Middle East, where there are significant distance-gaps between cities.

“All over the place it's a different flavor of infrastructure challenge but still applicable to the way that you can leapfrog the traditional solution to logistics and try and fly things in the air,” he said.

Rinaudo says younger countries and many developing countries offer great opportunities for innovation because young countries tend to be more willing to try new things and take a little bit of risk.

“I think that a lot of the countries that you see taking these leapfrogging opportunities today are the ones where that spirit of entrepreneurship is really strong,” he said.

Rinaudo believes entrepreneurs must take a lead role in solving problems like universal access to healthcare, education and food.

“These global problems that affect billions of people are not the responsibility of only foreign aid organizations or non-profits,” Rinaudo said. “They are fundamentally the responsibility of all of us and they’re also a huge economic opportunity for start-ups.”

Keller Rinaudo discussed the development opportunities that technology offers in Africa at the 2017 IMF World-Bank Annual Meetings.

Listen to podcast here: