Keller Rinaudo, the Chief Drone Officer

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Drone deliveries are well-suited to a pandemic: They can be deployed on demand, and they don’t involve contact between people. Zipline is making them a reality in the U.S. In May the company completed its first American delivery, parachuting a box of face masks from 50 feet above to Novant’s Huntersville Medical Center in suburban Charlotte. And in September, Walmart Inc. announced it would be using Zipline to deliver health and wellness products directly to customers in northwest Arkansas. Novant and Walmart chose Zipline based on its record in Africa, where it’s logged millions of miles delivering blood, medicine, and other supplies to hospitals and clinics in Ghana and Rwanda. Rinaudo started the company in 2014 after learning that emergency requests from clinics there often went unanswered.

Zipline’s autonomous, battery-powered drones are launched from catapults and carry parachute boxes weighing as much as 4 pounds; they cruise at 60 mph and can fly as far as 100 miles, round trip. A single distribution hub can manage a fleet of about 30 and supply an area of 8,000 square miles, delivering as many as two tons of freight in a week.

Keller Rinaudo, the Chief Drone Officer

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