Where We Fly
Zipline turns five: a look back, and ahead
Team Zipline
October 28, 2021

Five years ago, we officially launched Zipline.

It all started with an audacious goal: to design and build a logistics system capable of serving all people equally. Billions of people worldwide lack access to basic medical supplies, and we set out to build a technology that would address this challenge.

Plenty of people were skeptical of our vision. They didn’t believe the technology could actually work; they didn’t believe it could be scaled enough to deliver meaningful impact; they didn’t believe the economics would pan out. But the government in Rwanda was willing to take the leap with us, and we made our first successful blood delivery in October 2016. Over that first year, as we tested and scaled our technology, we served 12 hospitals.

Today, we serve hundreds of healthcare facilities across all of Rwanda in a 24/7 operation, delivering 75% of the country’s blood supply outside of its capital, Kigali. But we do a lot more than that, too. We’ve built the infrastructure to make instant, on-demand access possible, and partnered with governments to transform healthcare access for millions of people. We deliver 200+ medical supplies, including nationwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. We eliminate wastage for healthcare systems. We partner with governments, healthcare systems and some of the world’s leading brands. Since that first delivery in October 2016, we’ve built the largest automated, on-demand delivery service in the world.

Zips ready for action at our GH-3 distribution center, Ghana

Here are the last five years, by the numbers:

  • 210,000 commercial deliveries across five countries
  • 1,900+ healthcare facilities served, reaching 25 million people
  • 4.5 million doses of medical products delivered
  • 14.9 million autonomous miles flown

In our first five years, we proved out a novel technology, scaled it, replicated it and took it global — proving out the promise of a logistics system that can truly reach all people equally. We’re not serving all people yet, but we’ve built the systems and the company to fulfill that promise. Now, it’s about growing our infrastructure to serve even more people.

To get this far, we’ve had to think bigger than delivering a product from point A to point B; we’ve had to reexamine entire logistics systems. The primary methods of transportation today — trucks, trains, vans, motorcycles — may all have a role to play in the logistics ecosystem of the future. But in many instances, they’ll take a backseat to faster, more dynamic, more sustainable methods.

Take COVID-19 vaccines as a timely example. The best way to deliver cold chain products to a small facility in a remote area of Ghana is not guessing how many doses they may need today, tomorrow or this week, putting those vaccine vials on a gas-guzzling truck and sending it on a several hour journey to reach a healthcare facility that may not have cold chain storage facilities. It’s centralizing vaccine storage, loading a 50-pound autonomous aircraft with the exact number of doses requested for that day and seeing it arrive in a fraction of the time. This is the smarter future we are working with the government of Ghana and our other worldwide partners to build.

According to the World Economic Forum, the number of delivery vehicles is set to increase by 36% in the coming years. This means, if we do nothing, we’ll see a 32% rise in emissions, a 21% increase in congestion and an 11 minute longer commute time, just from more delivery vehicles. It’s time that we, collectively, think strategically about how we can better this system.

Over the last five years, we’ve built the instant logistics infrastructure to power more dynamic service, more resilient supply chains and more effective systems overall. It’s this infrastructure that has enabled us to complete over 200,000 deliveries and serve millions of people, and this infrastructure that will empower us to provide instant access to millions more people in our next five years. Onward and upward.