Delivery by drone is not a novelty for Silicon Valley-based startup Zipline—it’s a matter of life and death in the regions that the drone-delivery system serves. In October 2016, the company launched an on-demand service in contract with the government of Rwanda to deliver more than 50 different types of blood products (blood, plasma, and platelets) for immediate medical treatment.

Rwanda was an ideal first partnership country for Zipline: It has one of the highest population densities in...


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