By Andrew Gunder, DCMME Graduate Assistant

Drones are becoming more and more visible and prevalent throughout our society. The practical applications of drone technology increase day by day as manufacturers, innovators, and hobbyists push the boundaries of what is possible with these “gadgets”.

One such innovator, Keller Rinaudo, the CEO and founder of San Francisco drone start-up “Zipline” has engineered a solution to one of the world’s most dire needs, medical supplies. Zipline utilizes its fleet of small, autonomous planes to deliver medical supplies, and most importantly blood, to rural communities across Africa, most notably Rwanda, after signing a contract to operate in the African country.

The operations process of Zipline is quite efficient. Should a hospital worker in Rwanda need critical supplies such as plasma, O- blood (universal donor) and or platelets they would send a text message to Zipline mission control in Kigali. A technician loads the supplies into a disposable box with an attached folded paper parachute, which is tucked into the belly of a drone. The aircraft and payload delivery system is designed to be cost effective to build and has a strong but lightweight foam shell and electrical components that snap in and out, making them easy to fix. The return on investment of saving a human life catapults drones into a realm that many would not think possible five to ten years ago. With capabilities like those of Zipline, it is not hard to see why this technology has taken flight on a global level.


What other practical applications for drones can you think of?

Is this concept scalable to where it could revolutionize other industries?

What are the biggest barriers to mainstream drone use?