25. Zipline International

Drones to the rescue.

Founders: Keller Rinaudo (CE0), Keenan Wyrobek
Launched: 2015
Headquarters: Half Moon Bay, California
$114.3 million (Pitchbook)
Valuation: N/A
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, drones/UAVs, edge computing, machine learning, robotics
Drones, logistics, robots

George Kavallines | CNBC

Zipline is a drone service that focuses on delivering lifesaving medicine and blood supplies to the world's most difficult-to-reach places. The company, based in Half Moon Bay, California, started in Rwanda because of the African country's mountainous geography and poor road conditions. The premise of the company is this: Throughout the developing world (and often the developed world as well), access to lifesaving and critical health products, like blood, medicines and vaccines, is hampered by what's known as a "last mile" problem. In other words, the inability to deliver the products from a city to a more remote or rural area because of treacherous roads or inadequate transportation.

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The company clears those hurdles by delivering these products via drones. A hospital or clinic in a remote area texts Zipline a list of what it needs. The products are stored at the company's distribution center in that country (in this case, Rwanda) and then packaged in a small, red Zipline box. The box is attached to a small parachute, which the drone then gently drops at the hospital or clinic. The company claims the box floats gently enough to the ground that someone could stand below and catch it. The autonomous aircraft then flies back to the distribution center to await its next delivery.

To date, the company has delivered more than 2,600 units of blood to Rwanda via more than 1,400 flights. It's expanding next with a distribution center set to open in Tanzania this year. Its goal, says co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo, is to put every person on Earth within a 15- to 30-minute delivery radius of any essential medical product they need, no matter where they live.

Zipline's customers are governments, pharmaceutical companies and large logistics networks. There are about 90 employees. So far, it's raised just over $114 million from some of the world's top investors, including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Stanford University and Google Ventures.