Us drone operator Zipline doubles valuation to $2.75bn.
The start-up raises $250 million in preparation for expansion with partners such as Walmart and Pfizer.
Zipline, the world’s only large-scale drone delivery service, has raised $250 million and more than doubled its valuation to $2.75 billion in order to meet the demand unleashed by the pandemic.
The California-based start-up, founded in 2014, has made a name for itself in Africa by supplying hospitals with blood, medicine, and vaccines, completing more than 150,000 missions in the last five years.
It is now expanding its operations in the United States with partners such as Walmart, Pfizer, and Novant Health, as well as in Japan at the request of Toyota, one of its investors.
Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo stated that the company tripled its bookings goal last year as global health systems struggled with supply shortages and sought to maintain operations despite social distancing regulations.
“Suddenly, the need for immediate logistics becomes incredibly clear to every health system owner,” he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration heavily regulates the US drone market, but Rinaudo said that after two years of negotiations, he expected to receive a permit this year to begin wider operations for its long-distance, unmanned delivery service.
“We’re now on the one-yard line,” he announced. “It’s extremely encouraging that the FAA is committed to this and working as hard as they are to ensure that the United States does not fall behind in this fundamental new area of technology.”
Rinaudo was speaking from Zipline’s headquarters near San Francisco International Airport, where the company manufactures all of its drones. Today, over 1,000 of these aircraft are in service on a daily basis.
“We manufacture it here, and then we operate nine global distribution centers that serve approximately 25 milion people,” Rinaudo explained. “Every day, we deliver to 2,500 hospitals and health facilities in Rwanda, Ghana, and the United States — and we’ll be adding Nigeria and Japan in the coming months.”
Zipline’s success is all the more remarkable given the lack of commercial traction from Silicon Valley’s tech titans, such as Amazon and Alphabet, whose focus has been on short-distance consumer goods delivery.
Zipline, on the other hand, claims to have saved 15,000 lives in just one year. It transports three-quarters of Rwanda’s blood supply, fulfilling orders in minutes and traveling more than 100 kilometers to rural hospitals.
“A lot of people see this and think, ‘Oh, this is useful in Africa because there are no roads and no regulations,’” Rinaudo explained. “But that is not the case. There are good roads to all of the health facilities we serve, and the regulatory climate is very similar to that of the United States. The only difference is that some countries move faster and adopt new technology.”
According to Deloitte, the advanced air mobility market — which includes low-cost airborne movement of goods and people — will be a $115 billion industry in the United States by 2035, employing 280,000 people.
Fidelity, Intercorp, Emerging Capital Partners, and Reinvent Capital are among Zipline’s new investors. They will be joining existing investors such as Baillie Gifford, Temasek, and Katalyst Ventures.
ECP’s managing director, Bryce Fort, stated that Zipline demonstrated “the effectiveness of a system that can, ultimately, materially improve a wide range of logistics challenges globally.”