Logistics startup Zipline has flown more than 38 million miles with its autonomous electric delivery drones since the company was founded in 2014. Zipline put its first fleet to work in Rwanda, delivering blood and other health supplies to clinics and hospitals. Since then, the Silicon Valley startup has expanded its service to six other countries, with limited distribution service and distribution centers in three states.
On Wednesday, Zipline showed off its next-generation aircraft, which it hopes will provide everyday convenience for customers across the US, even in densely populated urban areas.
Zipline’s new drone, called the Platform 2 or P2 Zip, is capable of carrying up to eight pounds of cargo within a ten-mile radius, and can land a package on a space as small as a table or doorway.
“The reason that number is significant is because when you look at e-commerce in the U.S., most packages weigh five pounds or less,” says Keller Rinaudo Clifton, Zipline’s CEO and co-founder.
Zipline co-founders, CEO Keller Rinaudo Clifton and CTO Keenan Vriobek
The CEO said that P2Zip can travel ten miles in ten minutes, and the company can make deliveries about seven times faster than any typical service. Rapid delivery by drone could eliminate “porch pirates,” said Rinaudo Clifton, referring to the theft of packages left on doorsteps when customers are away from home.
Zipline’s original drone, the P1 Zip, has a fixed wing or glider-like design, while the P2 uses both lift and cruise propellers and fixed wing. These help in precise and silent running even in rainy or windy weather.
To deliver cargo to a customer’s doorstep, the P2 Zip hovers about 300 feet above ground level and dispatches a type of mini-plane and container called a “droid.” The droid descends on a long thin tether, and silently maneuvers with fan-like thrusters before setting off for package retrieval.
Zipline’s original P1 drone will remain in production and wide use, Rinaudo Clifton says. The P1 Zip can fly long distances, delivering up to five pounds of cargo within a 60-mile radius, but it requires a large space for take off, landing, and “drop”.
The P1 zips down the cargo with a parachute, so its payload lands within a space the size of two car parking spaces. After the P1 Zip returned to base, a crew would have to disassemble it, then set up a new, freshly charged battery for the next flight.
Zipline’s new P2 Zip can dock and power up autonomously at a charging station that looks like a street lamp with an arm and a big disc attached to that arm:
A rendering of the P2 Zip charging on the docking station.
Zipline docks can be installed in a parking lot or along a building, depending on zoning and permits. Zipline envisions docks set up by restaurants in a downtown shopping district, or along the exterior wall of a hospital, where the droid could be inserted into a window or dumbwaiter, retrieved, and returned home by health workers. Can be reloaded inside.
Rinaudo Clifton said that setting up one of these docks takes about the same amount of work as setting up an electric vehicle charger.
Prior to developing P2Zip, Zipline had already established logistics networks in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda. It’s operating a few drone delivery networks in the US – in North Carolina, Arkansas and Utah – but the P2 will help expand that network.
Partners planning to test delivery via P2 Zip include healthy fast-casual restaurant SweetGreen, Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, Michigan Medicine, MultiCare Healthcare System in Tacoma, Wash., and the government of Rwanda.
Zipline is not alone in its ambitions. Zipline is part of a program with other startups such as DroneUp and Flytrex to deliver walmart, Meanwhile, Amazon has been working on making drone delivery a reality here for nearly a decade, though that business has struggled to overcome regulation and low demand from test customers.
cool and green is the goal
Zipline head of engineering Joe Murdle told CNBC that the company focused much of its engineering on making sure the drones were not only safe and energy-efficient, but also quiet enough that residents could embrace their use.
He said, “People are concerned about the noise, right. I am concerned about the noise. I don’t want to live in a world where there are loud planes flying over my house.” “Success to us seems to be in the background, barely audible.” This means something closer to rustling leaves than driving a car.
The Droid component of the P2 Zip is designed to enter distribution centers through a small portal, where it is loaded with goods for delivery.
The P2 Zip has a unique propeller design that makes this possible, explained Myrdal, adding, “The fact that the Zip delivers from up to 300 feet really helps a lot.”
Murdall and Rinaudo Clifton stressed that Zipline aims to have a net-beneficial impact on the environment by giving customers a better way to move everything from hot food to refrigerated vaccines on time.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, he explained, avoid worsening traffic congestion by going overhead. And since Zipline’s drones are electric, they can be powered by renewable or clean energy without the emissions from burning jet fuel, gasoline or diesel.
But most importantly, the CEO said, Zipline’s drone delivery allows companies to “centralize more inventory” and “reduce waste dramatically.”
A study published by The Lancet found that hospitals using Zipline services were able to reduce their overall annual blood supply waste rate by 67%, the CEO boasted.
“It’s an astonishing statistic, and a really big deal. It saves health systems millions of dollars, by reducing inventory at the last mile and only shipping it when it’s needed.”
The CEO said Zipline aims to bring that efficiency to every corner of commerce. It aims to keep the cost of drone delivery competitive with existing services, such as FedEx, And UPSor food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Instacart.
But first, the startup plans to conduct more than 10,000 test flights this year using about 100 of the new P2 Zips. With its existing P1 drone, Zipline is already on track to complete nearly 1 million deliveries by the end of 2023, and by 2025 it expects to operate more flights annually than most commercial airlines.
Orignal Post From: Zipline introduces P2 delivery drone that docks and recharges autonomously