World’s first commercial drone delivery service starts in Rwanda


Zipline Muhanga Distribution Center, Zipline’s first operational site, only launched last year, is now beginning drone delivery service to Kabgayi District Hospital.

This made Rwanda the first country to integrate drones into their airspace and to begin daily operations of autonomous delivery.

Zipline built a passionate team of Rwandan engineers, health technicians, and operators to receive orders, pack blood products, and fly the fleet.

The hospitals they serve range from tiny villages to remote cities hours outside the capital. The path to each can be quite challenging, with towering mountain ranges and seasonal rivers. Zipline flies over this challenging terrain and is able to reach Muhororo District Hospital in 17 minutes, while a truck would have to take a four hour journey by road to pick up blood.Working closely with the Ministry of Health, we trained hospital technicians and doctors how to order blood products through Zipline and how to make use of this radically new delivery service.

Zipline’s distribution center fits on a small plot of land. The drones are able to take off in a short distance using a powerful launcher. To recover the drone efficiently, they needed to solve a much harder problem. Inspired by aircraft carrier landings, their recovery system bobs up and down to catch the deployed tailhook of an airplane as it fights turbulence. This system allows them to capture the drone in a small area, and if they miss, the plane just flies around again.