“If we have instant delivery for our burgers,” says Zipline CEO and co-founder Keller Rinaudo, “we should have it for our medicine.” So while some people debate whether drone delivery for burritos, beers, and books is a marketing gimmick, one of the most important kinds — urgent delivery of urgent healthcare — is happening right now through Zipline’s delivering blood and vaccines to patients and hospitals in Rwanda.
The peace dividend of the smartphone (and electric vehicle) wars has yielded components and cost dynamics that make all this possible. But more importantly, the economics — bypassing motorcycles and going 20x as fast — are actually profitable, as drones can help leapfrog existing (or lacking) road infrastructure. “It’s trade, not aid” … especially as this approach also builds out commercial infrastructure in Africa.
In this episode of the a16z Podcast (in conversation with Chris Dixon and recorded at our recent inaugural a16z Summit), Rinaudo and UPS’ Vice President of Healthcare Strategy John Menna discuss using drones to leapfrog infrastructure, and save lives by doing it in less than 15 minutes. But how are regulation and locals responding? What does the trend towards “light and fast” logistics — based on smaller inventory in a number of controlled-environment yet centrally managed locations — look like? And finally, how can drones for healthcare delivery further the trend of personalized medicine?