This morning, drone delivery company Zipline announced a new drone delivery system offering near-silent and precise delivery that is designed to expand the company’s home delivery capabilities. This requires a very different approach than what Zipline has been doing for the past eight years. To make home delivery quiet and accurate, Zipline has developed a creative new combination of hybrid drones, “droids” and all the accessories you need to deliver right to your front porch.

A few years ago, we visited one of the Zipline distribution centers in Rwanda to see how effective their blood delivery system was in the country’s rugged terrain. To see how the birth goes, we drove for an hour along winding dirt roads to the village hospital. Shortly after we arrived, the drone made the trip and delivered the blood bag in about 14 minutes. This was a compelling example of the value of drone delivery in situations where you have important and urgent items in areas with poor infrastructure, but home delivery challenges in the city are very different.

The current generation of fixed-wing Zipline cargo delivery drones drop crates tied to small parachutes while flying several tens of meters above an open delivery area. For this to work reliably, you need an unobstructed space (say, a few empty parking spaces or something) and it’s not a particularly forgiving process, meaning there are some limits on what you can deliver and how it’s packaged. . For hospitals and medical centers, this is usually not a problem. For your home, this may not be an option at all.

The new Zipline drones are very different. In a massive online event featuring the Zipline team, along with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and company board member Bono, Zipline unveiled the P2, a new delivery system that combines a fixed-wing hybrid drone with a small tethered droid that can drop from the drone’s belly to accurately delivery.

Housed inside a P2 Zip, the droid and everything it carries can travel at 112 kilometers per hour in any weather for a service radius of about 16 kilometers with an impressive payload of 2.5 to 3.5 kg. As soon as the P2 reaches the delivery point, the Zip hovered at a height of several hundred feet, while the built-in winch lowered the droid and the package to the ground. The Zip stays at a height that’s both safe and silent, while the droid uses built-in motors to precisely position itself over a delivery area that’s only half a meter across could easily become a picnic tabletop. Visual sensors on the droid keep the delivery area clear. As soon as it lands, the droid ejects its cargo from its belly. It is then lifted back into the Zip and the team returns home.

On the other hand, there is a built-in loading system where P2 Zips can charge outdoors (using an interesting overhead charging system) while the droids descend the chute to load indoors one by one.

Although the event did not show the full delivery cycle, we were told that all the equipment was in working order and very close to the production project, and that all stages of delivery were successfully completed with the real aircraft. Of course, there is still a lot of testing to do, and Zipline expects 10,000 flights over the summer, followed by the first deployment. Early customers include several regional health systems in the United States, Sweetgreen restaurants, and the government of Rwanda, with President Kagame himself the very first customer. And to be clear, P2 is not replacing the original delivery infrastructure with Zipline drones — with their 100km range, the original Zips (now called P1s) are still quite busy delivering critical goods in Rwanda and elsewhere around the world.

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