CNBC Disruptor 50

29. Zipline

Founders: Keller Rinaudo (CEO), Keenan Wyrobek
Launched: 2014
Headquarters: San Francisco
$486 million
Valuation: $2.5 billion
Key technologies:
Autonomous vehicles, robotics
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 3 (No. 7 in 2020)

Persephone Kavallines

California-based drone-delivery company Zipline has looked to transform the way that critical medical supplies are delivered.

Since its founding in 2014, the company has established itself in Ghana and Rwanda, helping to power their national blood delivery network and Covid-19 vaccine distribution, respectively. In March, the company announced it helped the Ghana Ministry of Health deliver one million vaccines, an effort that not only shortened vaccine stockouts but also increased the types of medicines and supplies available at health facilities by 10%.

After raising $250 million in new funding in June, taking its valuation to $2.5 billion, Zipline is further expanding into new industries and geographies like the U.S., as well as further into commerce.

Last November, Zipline marked the first time it delivered something directly to consumers' homes as part of a partnership with Walmart. In the Pea Ridge, Arkansas, area, residents can place orders online for a variety of healthy and wellness products and have them delivered by Zipline's autonomous aircraft on the same day.

A 25-foot platform built behind the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Pea Ridge serves as the base for the take-off and landing of Zipline's 11-foot wide, fixed-wing drones which operate autonomously. After a customer orders a product through the Zipline app, a Walmart associate picks and packs the product and gives it to the Zipline staff. The drone is then loaded and launched and the product is dropped off in a cardboard box that is supported by a paper parachute.

The company has also entered Japan through a partnership with Toyota Tsusho, where it is delivering medical supplies to pharmacies and hospitals in remote and isolated areas.

Drone delivery has become a hot topic as companies look to reach the point of near-instant e-commerce shopping, while also avoiding some of the issues that have snarled last-mile delivery in recent years such as traffic, lack of available drivers, and gas prices.

Furthermore, the FAA has seemingly started to warm up to the idea as well. In February, the FAA said it would start to test an air-traffic control system for unmanned aircraft that stay below 400 feet this spring, building upon a plan it previously announced that could enable drone delivery across the entire U.S.

"We've seen firsthand the impact that instant logistics can have in making important, even life saving products, available on a moment's notice," Keller Rinaudo, co-founder and CEO of Zipline, said in a statement announcing the launch of its partnership with Walmart. "Working with Walmart, we're able to bring this type of service to Northwest Arkansas, showcasing what the future of health access looks like."

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