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Drone News Roundup: Zipline Partners with Walmart, North Dakota Announces Statewide BVLOS Network, and More

BY Zacc Dukowitz
18 September 2020

This week we’re covering a new partnership between Zipline and Walmart for drone delivery. The announcement comes right on the heels of Amazon Prime Air getting its Part 135 certificate, giving it permission to conduct drone deliveries in the U.S. Coincidence? We doubt it.

We’re also covering North Dakota’s plans for a statewide BVLOS network and Volansi—the company that won the contract to work with North Dakota—announcing a $50 million series B, Wing Aviation’s open letter to the FAA about Remote ID, and the ways that drones are being used to rescue seals.

Now let’s get to the links!

Zipline Partners with Walmart for Drone Delivery

zipline-walmart
Photo credit: Zipline

Zipline has made a name for itself by building successful drone delivery programs to service rural populations, most notably in Africa—last year it launched the largest drone delivery network in the world in Ghana. In its new partnership with Walmart, Zipline will be breaking into consumer drone delivery. The first deliveries will start early next year and take place near Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas, offering on-demand health and wellness products. Zipline doesn’t currently have Part 135 certification, but it looks like the company may expect to get it soon.

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North Dakota Announces Plans for a Statewide BVLOS Network

north-dakota-bvlos-network
Photo credit: Volansi

The state of North Dakota is working with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) to create a statewide BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) network. Three aviation companies have been tapped to create the physical infrastructure needed for the network and Volansi’s VOLY C10 drone has been selected for testing and use-case development. The goal is for the network to “be widely accessible to support public and commercial use cases because of this testing.”

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Volansi Raises $50 Million in Series B

volansi-series-b
Photo credit: Volansi

Drone company Volansi just raised an impressive $50 million in a Series B fundraising round. The company develops VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) drone delivery technology that is currently in use by the Department of Defense, as well as private companies. Investors were no doubt spurred on by the company’s contract to work with North Dakota in developing its statewide BVLOS network.

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Wing Aviation Writes Concerned Open Letter to FAA about Remote ID

wing-aviation-remote-id-letter
Photo credit: Wing Aviation

Back when the FAA’s proposed Remote ID rule was open for comment, several companies openly voiced their concerns about it (including us). Now Wing Aviation has written an open letter to the FAA about Remote ID, reiterating its concerns. One of the primary points the letter makes is that the Remote ID rule as currently proposed will make it almost impossible for hobbyists to fly, a concern the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) has also expressed several times. The AMA’s president, Richard D. Hanson, joined Wing as a signatory on the open letter, along with two other leaders in the drone industry.

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Drones Used to Rescue Distressed Seals

embry-riddle-verizon-seals

Drones are being used to rescue marine mammals by allowing researchers to get closer to them and identify those in distress without intruding on their natural environment. The effort is the result of a partnership between marine biologists, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Skyward, a Verizon company. The data collected in the project will be made available to others doing similar work so that it can be studied and replicated.

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