A merry gang of engineers from SpaceX, Boeing, Google and Willow Garage, started Zipline in 2011 to make and use drones for social good. The company beat Amazon and FedEx to the punch, firing up drone-based logistics in 2016. In two years, they have logged more than 186,000 miles and over 4,000 deliveries.
While Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo and CTO Keenan Wryobeck initially focused on delivering life-saving medical supplies, especially blood, to clinics in hard to reach parts of Rwanda -- their company is planning to expand to new markets this year, including the U.S.
CNBC caught up with Zipline for a demonstration of their systems in Davis, Calif. this week.
Showing off the company's new fast-flying drone, the Zip 2, CEO Rinaudo said:
"We are using an active recovery system that...takes inspiration from an aircraft carrier. We track the plane with centimeter-level accuracy and can pluck it out of the air, then basically swing it down so that flight operators can immediately grab it, load a new package, and launch it again."