"People rely on us with their lives," Rinaudo said.
A Zipline employee referred to the drone system as a "magically simple solution."
Its contents — a blood bag of red food coloring and tissue paper — were in pristine condition.
The parachute felt like wax paper. The entire packaging costs less than $1 and is reusable.
Without ever touching the ground, the drone began its return trip. Meanwhile, we hunted down the package.
As the drone neared its designated drop site, which employees call Cow Country, the propellers quieted and it lost altitude. With a dim popping noise, the package released.
Back at the pretend central transfusion hub, employees tracked the drone from an iPad app. While it flies autonomously, the health workers in Rwanda can take control of the drone at any time.
Though the drone will work in most weather conditions, it's not immune to wear and tear. Zipline has no plans to place its employees at the blood banks, which puts IT support in short supply. Still, most components in the build have back-up parts for redundancy.
With the push of a launch button, the drone zipped into the cold coastal air. It made a loud whirring sound, like an electric hand dryer, as it flew high overhead.
On an iPad, another employee performed a final checklist. It was ready for take-off.
During a demo at Zipline's headquarters, an employee slung the drone into a catapult.
The package is spring-loaded into the belly of the drone, and it's ready for take-off.
The delivery box can hold up to three pounds of medical supplies, which are most often blood bags. Zipline's proprietary packaging has a coating that protects it from rain.
When a clinic needs blood, it calls in an order from a central transfusion center.
The drone that launched in 2016 could fly 150 miles round-trip, at speeds between 50 and 85 miles per hour, on a single battery charge.
The company poached employees from SpaceX, Google, NASA, and Boeing, and spent more than four years in stealth mode developing a fleet of autonomous aerial vehicles.
It's a logistical nightmare. Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline, told Business Insider he wants to "eliminate the 'lack of roads' excuse" so that local health clinics can save more lives.
Typically, a hospital worker will drive two hours to the nearest blood bank to collect donations, if the roads are passable. Storms often wipe out roads in rural areas.
In Rwanda, 30,000 people receive blood transfusions annually for postpartum hemorrhaging, severe anemia due to malaria infection, and other potentially fatal conditions.
This little guy — a drone that looks more like a character from the "Cars" spinoff movie "Planes" than a quadcopter — could be the future of the healthcare industry.