Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free trial today! Click here

Autonomy at your doorstep

Zipline revealed its new aircraft designed for fast, whisper-quiet, autonomous home delivery to cities and suburbs.

A simulated Zipline delivery. Photo courtesy of Zipline.

The San Francisco-based company says its next generation drone delivery system, Platform 2 (P2), is designed to sound like wind rustling leaves and expects to be able to complete 10-mile deliveries in around 10 minutes, seven times faster than ground vehicles.

The system utilizes autonomous drones called “Zips” and tethered droids to complete deliveries. The Zips fly at more than 300 feet above ground level to their destinations, then hover and wait while a fully autonomous delivery droid makes its way down a tether to its drop-off location. The company says the system can deliver packages to areas as small as patio tables or front steps of a home thanks to its “major innovations in aircraft and propeller design.”

Zipline utilizes an acoustic detect-and-avoid system for airborne collision avoidance. The system uses several small microphones to provide 360-degree perception of other aircraft at a range of up to 1.25 miles, and through visual obstructions like clouds. According to the company website, the Zipline drone can “autonomously and continuously” monitor and identify airspace traffic, identify potential flight paths, and adapt its own flight path in real-time.

Zipline launched its drone operations delivering blood and other lifesaving materials across Rwanda and Ghana in 2016. In 2020, the company was awarded an FAA emergency waiver to conduct drone deliveries between health care facilities in North Carolina during the COVID-19 pandemic. After logging more than 23 million autonomous miles and 325,000 deliveries, Zipline received its FAA Part 135 air carrier certification to operate commercial drone deliveries in the United States in June. Now the company boasts more than 40 million miles of commercial deliveries and more than 500,000 commercial flights without incident.

Among several food service and health care companies eagerly signing on to use Zipline’s newest platform, Michigan Medicine, Intermountain Heath, and MultiCare Health System all have plans to use Zipline to expedite delivery of medical samples equipment, and medications.

The company claims its end-to-end system can easily integrate with a business’s current third-party inventory management and ordering systems. The dual-use docking and charging hardware can be installed on any building or set up on its own. Zipline’s full-service marketplace will allow companies and distributors to offer home delivery through integrations with their apps and websites and loading and shipping can be done from a home, pharmacy, or office.

“Over the last decade, global demand for instant delivery has skyrocketed, but the technology we’re using to deliver is 100 years old,” co-founder and CEO of Zipline Keller Rinaudo Cliffton said. “We’re still using the same 3,000-pound, gas combustion vehicles, driven by humans, to make billions of deliveries that usually weigh less than 5 pounds. It’s slow, it’s expensive, and it’s terrible for the planet. Our new service is changing that and will finally make deliveries work for you and around your schedule. We have built the closest thing to teleportation ever created—a smooth, ultrafast, convenient, and truly magical autonomous logistics system that serves all people equally, wherever they are.”

Zipline’s next steps include putting the system through its paces by conducting more than 10,000 test flights with nearly 100 aircraft over the next year. After that, the company hopes to launch P2 to its first customers with a goal of completing 1 million deliveries by the end of 2023.

Niki Britton

eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: Drone

Related Articles