The area of Rwanda in which Zips will be delivering medical
supplies is rocky and often difficult to access via automobile.
never met. These men, women, and children live in remote
areas of Rwanda, where delivering medical supplies to the sick
and injured can be time-consuming and treacherous.
The new delivery method for such supplies might not be
what you would expect. Since July of this year, life-saving
blood, vaccines, and medications are being delivered by an
8-foot electric-powered airplane with whimsical painted-on
eyes, affectionately named Zip.
This autonomous aircraft follows a predetermined flight
path that takes it to a remote medical center. When it reaches
the medical facility, a box of supplies that is attached to a
paper parachute is released from the airplane and lands in a
designated safe zone. The aircraft then returns to the location
from which it was launched.
“It’s very exciting,” Ronnie stated about working for Zipline,
located off the California coast. “Every day is something new.
We have a new problem to solve every day. Being in a startup
[company] is extremely fast-paced.” In April, shortly after the
company was announced to the public, Ronnie said he and his
coworkers were concentrating on getting the Zipline to land in
a smaller area that is roughly the size of a parking space.
Keller Rinaudo, cofounder of Zipline, said he decided to
hire Ronnie because of his unique skillset as an aeromodeler.
“Ronnie has been building planes his whole life, so he has an
amazing ability to improvise and just make things work in
order to move fast to get vehicles flying fast. He’s a master
prototyper, and has been involved in every single new airframe
we’ve built as a company,” Keller said. “Ronnie is also an
insanely talented test pilot, and was able to safely fly and land
early prototypes of planes when no other pilots on the planet
When lifetime California resident Ronnie started working
for the company in February 2015, he was the only employee
with aeromodeling experience. Many of Ronnie’s coworkers
at Zipline earned degrees at Harvard University, Stanford
University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and
had worked for companies such as Google X, SpaceX, and
53 Model Aviation SEP TEMBER 2016
H PE BY RACHELLE HAUGHN