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Medical drone delivery leaders Zipline have launched the fastest delivery drone in the world.

CA-based Zipline says that the company’s long-term mission is “to build instant delivery for the planet, allowing on-demand delivery of medicines and other products at low cost without using a drop of gasoline.” It’s a worthy goal, and one that they are well on the way to achieving.

“Today, Zipline unveiled the fastest commercial delivery drone on earth,” says a company press release.  “…Zipline’s newest generation of autonomous aircraft flies farther, faster and with more cargo than was ever before possible— even in high altitude, heavy wind, or rain.”

Zipline is a giant in drone delivery because they are the first successful drone delivery system to operate at scale.  Starting in October of 2016 under contract with the Rwandan government, Zipline provides delivery of blood and medical supplies to remote areas of the country.  Zipline’s operations have been successful: their fixed-wing aircraft handle the problem of “the last 50-feet” by dropping the supplies by parachute: the drones don’t land at the delivery point but simply return to the base.  It’s an elegant logistical solution to a complex problem of topography, distribution of medical care, and gaps transportation infrastructure.

With the first year of drone deliveries in Rwanda proving the program, Zipline is moving forward.  “The new aircraft is part of a complete redesign of Zipline’s logistics system, which dramatically improves the system’s launch, autonomous flight, and landing capabilities,” says the company. “The improvements will decrease the amount of time between Zipline’s receipt of an order and launch of a fulfillment flight from 10 minutes to 1, increase the number of daily delivery flights that each Zipline distribution center can make from 50 to 500, and expand the radius of each distribution center to serve populations of up to 10 million people.”

A 1 minute fulfillment period is a stunning achievement, and one with the potential to save thousands of lives.  Currently used in Rwanda, with new projects underway in Tanzania, the company is gearing up to bring their system to the globe.

“Our first generation aircraft and logistics system allowed us to create the first and only drone delivery service in the world, which is helping to save lives in Rwanda every day,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “We’ve taken everything Zipline has learned making thousands of life-critical deliveries and flying hundreds of thousands of kilometers and redesigned our entire system and operation from top to bottom. The new aircraft and distribution center system we’re unveiling today will help Zipline scale to meet the needs of countries around the world—including the United States.”

“Zipline’s new delivery vehicle is an autonomous fixed-wing style airplane. The plane is capable of flying at a top speed of 128 km/h, and a cruising speed of 101 km/h—21 km/h faster than the previous generation of aircraft—with a round trip range of 160 kilometers carrying up to 1.75 kilos of cargo. The new plane is capable of flying four times faster than the average quadcopter drone and can serve an area 200 times as large.”

The following is an excerpt from Zipline’s press release.

Drone Delivery In The United States and Beyond

Zipline is working with state governments across the country to launch its medical drone delivery as a part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recently announced UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP). The FAA created the UASIPP as an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments to partner with the private sector to accelerate the development and deployment of safe commercial drone innovation in the country.

A key priority of the program is integrating autonomous, beyond visual line of sight flights over populated areas into the FAA’s National Airspace System. The FAA is expected to formally approve UASIPP projects in the coming weeks and enter into formal Memorandums of Agreement with applicants by May 7th, 2018. Zipline projects chosen as a part of this process are expected to commence operation by the close of 2018.

“Billions of people on earth lack access to critical medicine,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “In East Africa, Zipline’s drones bring people the medicine they need, when they need it in a way that reduces waste, cost and inventory while increasing access and saving lives. We’ve been hard at work to improve our technology and are ready to help save lives in America and around the world.”

In addition to plans to expand its service to the United States later this year, Zipline announced in August of 2017 plans to launch the world’s most extensive drone delivery service in Tanzania to provide emergency on-demand access to critical and life-saving medicines. Zipline and the government of Tanzania plan to use drone delivery for blood transfusion supplies, emergency vaccines, HIV medications, antimalarials, antibiotics, lab reagents, and basic surgical supplies.

The scale of the operation will be capable of making up to 2,000 life-saving deliveries per day to over one thousand health facilities, serving 10 million people across the country.