Zipline drone venture is on a medical mission

Image: Zip drone plane
Zipline’s fixed-wing Zip drone airplane makes a flyover. (Credit: Zipline)

A drone delivery venture called Zipline International is coming out of stealth mode with backing from big-name investors and a humanitarian mission in mind.

During a Bay Area demo broadcast via Periscope, Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo and other executives showed how they plan to use mini-planes launched with compressed air to deliver blood and medical supplies in Rwanda starting in July.

Zipline has been working on a fleet of 15 electric-powered, GPS-guided Zip drones for a couple of years, but the startup has been flying under the radar (so to speak) until this month.

Rinaudo says the San Francisco startup has raised $18 million in funding from investors including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures and Stanford University. (Much of that investment came during Zipline’s previous incarnation as Romotive.) Zipline’s employees are said to include aerospace engineers from NASA, SpaceX, the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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