This morning drone delivery company Zipline announced a new drone delivery system offering an almost silent and precise delivery that aims to expand the capabilities of the company to home delivery. This requires a very different approach than Zipline has been doing for the past eight years. To make home deliveries that are quiet and precise, Zipline has developed a creative new mix of hybrid drones, “droids” and all the necessary supporting hardware to deliver right to your front porch.
We visited one of Zipline’s distribution centers in Rwanda a few years ago to see how effective their system was in distributing blood in the country’s rugged terrain. To see a delivery being performed, we drove an hour over winding dirt roads to a rural hospital. Shortly after we arrived, a drone made the trip, delivering a blood pack in about 14 minutes. It was a compelling example of the value of drone delivery in situations where you have time-sensitive, critical goods in areas with little infrastructure, but the challenges of urban home delivery are something else entirely.
The way Zipline’s current generation of fixed-wing delivery drones work is by dropping boxes attached to small parachutes while flying several tens of meters over an open delivery area. You need a space free of obstacles for this to work reliably (for example, a handful of empty parking spaces or the equivalent), and it’s not a particularly smooth process, which means there are some limitations on what you can deliver and how it is packaged For hospitals and health centers, this is usually not a problem. For your home, it may very well not be an option at all.
Zipline’s new drones are very different. in a big production online event With the Zipline team along with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and company board member Bono, Zipline introduced P2, a new delivery system that combines a fixed-wing hybrid drone with a small tethered droid that it can pop out of the belly of the drone to make precision deliveries.
Housed inside the P2 Zip, the droid and whatever it carries can travel at 70 mph through all types of weather up to a service radius of approximately 10 miles with an impressive 1.5 to 3.5 payload. kilograms. Once the P2 reaches its delivery destination, the Zip floats a few hundred feet while a built-in winch lowers the droid and package to the ground. The Zip remains at a safe and quiet height, while the droid uses built-in thrusters to precisely position itself over the drop zone, which at only two feet wide could easily be the top of a picnic table. The droid’s visual sensors ensure the drop zone is clear. As soon as it lands, the droid drops its load from its belly. He then gets back on the Zip and the team heads home.
On the other end of things, there’s a built-in loading system where P2 Zips can be loaded outdoors (using an interesting top-loading system) while droids are lowered down a chute to be loaded inside one by one. .
While the event did not show a full delivery cycle, we are told that all hardware is operational and very close to a production design, and all delivery steps have been successfully completed with actual aircraft. There’s still plenty of testing to be done, of course, and Zipline expects to complete 10,000 flights over the summer, with its first rollout to follow. Initial customers include a couple of regional health systems in the United States, sweet green restaurants, and the Rwandan government, with President Kagame himself as the first client. And to be clear, the P2 isn’t replacing Zipline’s original drone delivery infrastructure: with its 100km range, the original Zips (now called P1) are still pretty busy delivering critical goods in Rwanda and other parts of the world. world.
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