1 Million Deliveries by Autonomous Drone

Zipline, a company specialising in autonomous drone delivery systems, announced on Friday that it had just completed one million paid commercial drone deliveries to customers. The company, headquartered San Francisco, has developed and operates its own autonomous drones which have now flown more than 70 million commercial miles across four continents and delivered more than 10 million products.

Zipline has two key systems: a long distance (150 miles) winged UAV called ‘Zip’ that drops packages at the destination by parachute, ideal for rural deployment. And a quad-copter named P2 (Platform 2) that lowers its cargo container (“Droid”) with pinpoint accuracy for the urban environment.

A small red winged electric UAV drops a package by parachute
A Zip drone delivering its package (Photo; Zipline)

He also manages to squeeze a little travel journalism into the video, focusing on Rwanda
The company has made 70% of its deliveries in the last two years alone, quickly expanding to serve new user markets such as retail deliveries with Walmart, agriculture & animal health supplies across Africa, and food delivery in Japan. In the U.S., Zipline’s most frequently delivered items are fresh produce, while internationally they are child nutrition and vaccines. The company currently operates in four US states, five African countries, and Japan.

Commenting on the 1m delivery milestone, Zipline’s  co-founder and Head of Software, Ryan Oksenhorn said: “In the near future, I believe that 1 million deliveries will be unremarkable as we reach a million deliveries in a year, in a month, in a day…10 years from now, I think clean, reliable autonomous delivery of goods and services will be available to everyone.”

If you are thinking, like me, “Yeah, people have been talking about drone deliveries for years, but it’s fraught with practical difficulties and dangers,” think again. Zipline seem to have worked through those and now have reliable and deployable systems.

Don’t take my word for it. Youtube superstar, Mark Rober, the hyper-energetic ex-NASA engineer who created the famous glitter bomb package to trap parcel thieves, made a video about Zipline a year ago. He also manages to squeeze a little travel journalism into the video, focusing on Rwanda where Zipline now operate a continuous supply network to hospitals, clinics, farms and vet practices…

Thanks to recent regulatory approvals of its on-board perception system for “beyond visual line of sight” commercial delivery operations in the US, Zipline is now ramping up its P2 delivery drone network. Over the next few years they expect to serve more than 30 million people in 10 US states, starting with orders from Panera Bread, Memorial Hermann Health System and Jet’s Pizza in the greater Seattle, Houston, and Detroit metro areas respectively.

One day we may even see them making deliveries in the UK.


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