EDIT: Thanks everyone for your questions! We’ve got to get back to work (we complete a delivery every 90 seconds), but if you’re interested in joining Zipline check out our careers page - we’re hiring! Students, fall internship applications will open in a few weeks.

We are Zipline, the world’s largest instant logistics and delivery system. Four years ago we did an AMA after we hit 15,000 commercial deliveries – we’ve done 500,000+ since then including in Rwanda, Ghana, the U.S., Japan, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, and Nigeria.

Last week we announced our new home delivery platform, which is practically silent and is expected to deliver up to 7 times as fast as traditional automobile delivery. You might’ve seen it in Mark Rober’s video this weekend.

We’re Redditors ourselves and are excited to answer your questions!

Today we have: * Ryan (u/zipline_ryan), helped start Zipline and leads our software team * Zoltan (u/zipline_zoltan), started at Zipline 7 years ago and has led the P1 aircraft team and the P2 platform * Abdoul (u/AbdoulSalam), our first Rwandan employee and current Harvard MBA candidate. Abdoul is in class right now and will answer once he’s free

Proof 1 Proof 2 Proof 3

We’ll start answering questions at 1pm PT - Thank you!

Comments: 813 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

ElectroSpore685 karma

Have you had anyone try to intercept or shoot down your drone?

From the video you have delt with rain, how do you intend to deal with snow / ice / cold climates if you expand into other countries? I presume this will largely reduce your range?

It seems like this kind of service can only work in rural areas / suburbs with detached homes. Are there plans for some way to do drops for apartment / multi family buildings?

zipline_zoltan840 karma

It’s one of the most common Qs we get but no this hasn’t happened. People aren’t as bad as others expect them to be.

We do a lot of cold weather testing in North Dakota and Tahoe. Our range is not impacted by the cold but we find icing to be a challenge. We've tested down to -20F.

Our long range Platform 1 is ideal for rural. P2 is targeting higher population density. For apartments and similar we plan on delivering to rooftops or common areas. We can tell you exactly when we get there so we can do delivery to a shared space.

HiImFromTheInternet_16 karma

I live in Tahoe and my post office doesn’t do home delivery. Can you help?

zipline_ryan31 karma


Vitztlampaehecatl148 karma

It seems like this kind of service can only work in rural areas / suburbs with detached homes. Are there plans for some way to do drops for apartment / multi family buildings?

Do we really need drone delivery for cities, though? The fundamental appeal of a drone is that it's small and light, which means it's easy to go out of the way to deliver a single package. But for apartments, you're delivering a lot of packages to destinations that are very close together, so the added speed and versatility of a drone doesn't really make sense compared to the sheer capacity of a cargo van piloted by one guy who can wheel a whole cart of packages into the mailroom of an apartment building.

ElectroSpore31 karma

Have you tried to go into a popular fast food place only to have the parking lot and pickup area full of gig delivery service people and their vehicles?

zipline_ryan38 karma

iamamuttonhead19 karma

Please answer this. Child me would absolutely have messed with these. It's true that I was basically a jd but so were a lot of other kids I grew up with.

No_Finding169936 karma

Can you do a collab with Zipline Brewing out of Lincoln Nebraska? I'd like some beer delivered to my apartment balcony. Seems like a great match!

zipline_ryan51 karma

How’s Friday at 6pm work?

mschweini397 karma

I live in Costa Rica, and I think I once heard that you guys wanted to work here, too. But somehow, sadly, this project somehow was abandoned. Could you tell me why? Because many things here seem to be perfect for your service (many small clinics spread across the country relatively close by as-the-crow-flies, but connected by quite bad roads).

Also, no question, but as an engineer myself, I just want to express my immense envy for what you guys do. It just seems fun, perfect and for a good cause. Really awesome.

zipline_ryan592 karma

Not abandoned, just hasn't happened yet! We've got more demand than we can keep up with, but our mission is to bring this tech to the entire planet.

Costa Rica is a really special country. I got to spend a few weeks there when we were researching this partnership. The govt's focus on the environment and on universal healthcare aligns super closely with Zipline's values. So I'm hoping this happens soon too!

And thank you for the kind words.

nowutz62 karma

Same question. I would love to do anything I can to help see y’all and this technology come to Puerto Rico.

zipline_ryan47 karma

Everywhere, eventually!

MisfitsAndRebels303 karma

Mark Rober talked about the idea of a zipline-style ambulance. Do you think this is a possibility, and will you try to implement it?

zipline_ryan385 karma

I do think it's a really cool idea and it seems feasible (but hard!). We've got enough on our plates to keep us busy for a decade! But maybe 2030! 😉

watchinggodbleed229 karma

Drone deliveries have been a problem that has stumped juggernauts like Amazon for a long time. What unique insights, technologies, or general aspects of your operation do you think allowed you to make some in-roads in this space?

zipline_ryan277 karma

I don't know how other companies work, but our "secret" here is that we're super customer-obsessed: what problems do our customers have and how quickly can we get solutions in their hands. We work closely with them on getting something in the air that works for them, and stay as focused on understanding and solving their problems as we can.

This shapes every detail of our system: Platform 1 uses a fixed-wing drone that looks more like an airplane because our customers told us that moving things far was their biggest problem. Platform 2 we designed to pass the "neighbor test": not only are you happy with your delivery, but your neighbor is too. There are thousands of tiny details along these lines that shape our product and have led us to where we are now.

moldy91249 karma

Customer obsession is literally one of Amazon’s core principles, that you can’t forget or you won’t even get an interview.

o--Cpt_Nemo--o39 karma

Look up the enshitification cycle.

What was once true about Amazon no longer is.

zipline_ryan30 karma

I'm afraid to google that

sirrelevant215 karma

Any more technical details on those quiet props you can share? Any plans to license them?

zipline_ryan426 karma

It's been fun seeing you all try to reverse engineer and recreate it! Like our propellers, I need to be whisper quiet on all the details for now 🙉

The only way to get in on the secrets is by joining our team!

pm_me_your_vdub56 karma

Just piggybacking off of this comment hoping you’ll see this. Any resources available around development of the flight control software? I’m a SWE myself with a huge fascination with autonomous flight

Edit: I saw the Mark Rober video yesterday and the medical delivery system in Rwanda is literally the coolest thing I’ve ever seen

zipline_ryan63 karma

Our flight control software is a key part of our secret sauce, so I can't share more there.

proxpi25 karma

From what I saw on Rober's video, the prop looks asymmetrical and somewhat similar to a single-bladed propeller. I know that single bladed props are efficient, but the additional torquing on the bearings can cause premature failure. Is this a problem you've had with your (incredibly cool) props?

zipline_ryan49 karma

While I can't speak to the secrets behind these props, overall we design our vehicles for an incredibly high level of reliability. You can't safely fly things over people if they fail regularly. You can't achieve sustainable economics or environmental footprint if you're burning through parts. And you can't deliver as promised to your customers if your delivery vehicle is breaking down.

un-affiliated9 karma

Will you be hiring in more locations in the U.S. in the near future?

zipline_ryan23 karma

Engineering is based in SF Bay Area

Operations is expanding across the U.S. We're hiring for our ongoing operations in Arkansas and Utah, for our test sites in a few places across California, and keep an eye out for more expansion in the not-so-distant future: https://www.flyzipline.com/careers

jschall2162 karma

u/zipline_ryan - I am an Ardupilot developer - do you run an open source autopilot or have you developed an in-house solution? If in-house, what would you say that the open source autopilot softwares are missing that justifies such a difficult and expensive endeavor?

zipline_ryan233 karma

We've built our full autopilot stack in-house to have complete control over the performance and reliability. We're able to take many of the sophisticated safety and redundancy features of commercial airliners, rockets, and satellites to our commercial drone operations. There wasn't anything out there like this when we started. I'm sure it's progressed a lot though!

jschall259 karma

Interesting. Quite an accomplishment.

Do you have any interest in sharing any kind of broad architectural/technical philosophies that you apply?

How about business/management philosophies?

zipline_ryan131 karma

Don't overbuild. Build what you need in a modular way, fly a lot until you learn you need more, then reinforce that module, repeat!

Business/mgmt - you only learn the tough lessons by doing things in the real world. Listen to customers, understand their problems, forget about the tech, solve their problems. Truth is, our customers don't care about drones. They just care about getting what they ordered!

Cobra80008917 karma

Are you planning on licensing this technology stack out to other companies?

Or better yet open-sourcing it?

zipline_ryan12 karma

No plans right now. Not necessarily opposed to it, we're just focused on delivering to the customers we have.

oasc98 karma

Your video with Marc and all the work your team has put in is incredibly inspiring! Thanks for making the world a better place.

You mentioned how fast you iterate on design changes in the video, does that mean you're making a lot of your parts and assembling locally? What's your supply chain like for your drones?

zipline_ryan47 karma

To add to what Zoltan said, we literally built our company on a 1000-acre cattle ranch so we could live at our test site all day, every day.

Beepeedi88 karma

On the Mark Rober video he showed one hospital that received over 15 flights per day. At that volume, isn’t it much more efficient for pharmacy staff to do good stock management and get weekly deliveries by a van?

zipline_ryan118 karma

I think just like you do. The data point that really showed me why this is not possible is how high the unpredictability of medical supply usage is: we work with U.S. hospitals that get dozens of courier deliveries per day at a single hospital. Those couriers are almost always ferrying small packages needed "ASAP".

Ghetto_Cheese24 karma

I don't think you finished your second sentence.

zipline_ryan5 karma

whoops you're right - was answering many questions. Editing now

bulboustadpole69 karma

Considering it's against FAA rules to fly a drone within a certain distance of an airport, how do you get around that? Especially considering most cities have an airport within that 5 mile radius.

zipline_ryan116 karma

We work really closely with the FAA on things like this!

just_buy_a_mac48 karma

How do the drones know where to drop packages? Have you had issues with them landing on buildings, people or power lines?

zipline_ryan109 karma

Where to drop: It's not a simple answer. We’ve designed our system around safety and performance, and have many many layers to the tech that enable this to work well. Onboard safety systems, autonomy, maps we build, our GIS tech team, etc. We ask our customers where they want the package, and we work to make that magical.
We’ve flown more than 40M autonomous miles without a single safety incident.

jp_7360 karma

We’ve flown more than 40M autonomous miles without a single safety incident.

Wow, that is amazing.

zipline_ryan80 karma

1% luck, 99% really hard work and strong company culture!

michaelrohansmith7 karma

But how many unique drop locations and how much planning was required for each? Do you expect the recipient to understand limitations of the drone?

zipline_ryan14 karma

With our new home delivery service, we'll need to be able to deliver to billions of unique locations some day.

If we do our job well, it will be even more seamless to folks than traditional delivery.

Dapper_Dan145 karma

Your system is awesome. I've recently seen the video with Mark Rober. He showed that your company is active in multiple countries in Africa, the US and Japan. Is regulation in Europe to strict to also introduce your system here? Or are there other obstacles?

zipline_ryan48 karma

Not really obstacles or strict blockers, the world is just a vast place and we can only expand so quickly.

amackenz204837 karma

How will does your system deal with wind? Dropping a package down must be significantly more difficult in even low winds...

zipline_ryan63 karma

Great question and an important detail that we worked really hard to get right. The solution starts with a huge amount of testing and data collection to model how the package parachute inflates and drifts with the wind. As the Zip flies, it calculates the wind speed and direction and adjusts its path such that the package will be released and drift with the wind to land on the ground where the customer wants it.

canadave_nyc13 karma

I just want to say, in addition to applauding the work you do, that you really out to call the drone the "Zipper" rather than the "Zip" ;) Missed opportunity!

zipline_ryan20 karma

We're getting an outpouring of love (and name suggestions) for the droid.

I personally like "Mother Zip" and "Droid", but "Zipper" is a good laugh

spikkeddd28 karma

Do you guys plan to do long range deliveries via drone using hop stations? Land, swap battery, relaunch.

zipline_ryan30 karma

Yes! That's fundamental to our operations.

johnboll222 karma

How many rides, on average, can a plan be used before it breaks?

zipline_ryan23 karma

No one's tried to ride one yet, but it should be sturdy enough to not buckle under the weight of an average human

edit - actual answer: we have Zips that have made more than 4,000 flights and flown more than 400,000 miles and are still going strong

KakarotKiller21 karma

This is a great company and what you are doing is amazing.

I am curious what you hopeful max payload will be?

Do you expect that to deliver large more complex goods?

zipline_ryan35 karma

We're currently focused on the billions of deliveries made each year that are needed "now". It's rare that someone needs a sofa or a TV or an office chair delivered right now.

dats_what_she19 karma

I heard about Zipline several years ago from my parents who live and work in Kigali, Rwanda! Thank you for everything you're doing to save lives in nations who are less developed! I grew up in Côte d'Ivoire and know just how essential what you're doing is.

Zipline is able to save tons of time to deliver essential materials to hospitals, but also is saving fossil fuels by keeping trucks off the road. Can you share any details around other aspects that make Zipline more green or sustainable than other alternatives? Where are you trying to improve?

What determines where you'll establish another Zipline site? What infrastructure does a country need to be a candidate and what cost is associated?

Also, if Rwanda has banned plastic bags, what are the parachutes made of?

zipline_ryan10 karma

As for sustainability, I'll just link to my colleague Jo's thorough answer in this video: https://youtu.be/wuGuNu9q-P8?t=898

As for where, it really is just about as fast as we can expand. Some partners just move faster.

JimTeeKirk16 karma

Did you have to sacrifice a lot of aerodynamic efficiency for that quiet propeller design? Can it be scaled up 10 times?

zipline_ryan19 karma

We haven't tried to scale them up but I wouldn't be surprised if we see some maker on youtube give it a shot sooner than later. Let me know if you see of any such things pop up.

junzafra14 karma

Are y’all hiring? :-)

zipline_ryan19 karma

We are!

We look for folks that are motivated by a common mission, thrive in environments where you're given broad problems and it's on you to find solutions, and people who care deeply about their work, their peers, and the customers we serve.

I know this sounds like corporate fluff, but living these values is really one of the things that sets us apart from the many tech companies that only claim to live their values.

Vertigo_uk12313 karma

How do you get around bvlos requirements. Are you in segregated airspace? Or what technology do you use to keep flights safe from birds, aircraft etc.

zipline_ryan22 karma

I'm out of time to go in depth, but lucky you, we recently shared a dive into our detect-and-avoid tech: https://www.flyzipline.com/detect-and-avoid

ChipsAhoiMcCoy8 karma

Is there any hope that technology like this could make its way to food delivery services or Amazon package delivery services? And if you guys do plan on doing food delivery services, how do you plan on handling temperature issues? I can imagine if food is flying through the air it’s going to get cold very quickly, especially during winter. And is the service going to be available during moments where it’s raining? If so, how do you guys combat weather related issues like packages getting soaked?

zipline_ryan12 karma

We can deliver all sorts of things, from hot food to frozen vaccines. We fly fast enough and insulate from the elements. Your food will arrive hotter than any other means of delivery!

As for weather, we operate in practically all weather conditions. Rwanda's one of the most lightning-struck places on the planet, so we started somewhere quite challenging.

olderaccount7 karma

Anyone ever been injured by one of your payloads?

In Mark's vide it seemed like packages just fell out of the sky in front of the hospital in an are where many people were present.

Shadow311413 karma

In the video, he claimed that there haven’t been any injuries since implementation

zipline_ryan6 karma


rocksta244 karma

Mad respect you guys. The work youre doing is phenomenal. I have a few questions: 1. Scalability, how does this system scale? Is it just the matter of adding more and more nodes to the existing framework or are there other models, ideas for scaling the delivery system? 2. Technology barriers, i wanna know the most difficult ones, maybe ones like the return and landing process or other ones that you might have. 3. Airspace traffic handling, how do you guys accomplish this? (Collission avoidance) 4. The biggest cost. I wanna know what you guys think is your biggest cost, is it hardware, or human resource or something else?

I truly am a fan of your work guys. I am a science enthusiast, and nothing brings me more joy than to see people like you guys using science and technology for the betterment of mankind. Cheers.

zipline_ryan8 karma

Airspace traffic handling

We've built a multi-layered system that we're starting to talk more about with others in the industry to share this tech with the world.

zipline_ryan6 karma


  1. Scale with P1: we build distribution centers that cover huge areas (more than half the size of New Jersey!) and customers rely on us to store their inventory so we can quickly deliver for new customers. With P2 scaling is far more dynamic. We build out a network of charging locations in areas with lots of shops, restaurants, pharmacies and other things folks want to deliver, and then we can easily add temporary installations (stood up in hours) or permanent installations of loading docks wherever someone wants to ship with us.

myWobblySausage3 karma

Hey team, love the technology and how it is helping people. How long do you think it will take to become the norm above towns and cities across the world? Considering aviation rules etc. Is it a matter of additional tech or just permission?

zipline_ryan7 karma

That's a really good question. The funny thing is, this has totally become the norm in places like Rwanda and Ghana we're we've been operating for many years now. People just go about their daily business as Zips zip by and deliver.

So, it's not the norm for you until it's happening in your city! We're in 7 countries and growing.

To answer more directly, I think many people will experience this for the first time next year, and 2025 will start to feel truly mainstream. Just my guess though!

sunburntdick3 karma

Why haven't you straightened the plane on the wall behind you?

zipline_ryan9 karma

Ugh I did the other day and it just keeps shifting 😉

Chispy2 karma

Do you ever daydream about Zipline in space?

zipline_ryan6 karma

Oh shoot, our secret plans with Nasa must have leaked! 👀