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Big News on the Drone Delivery Front: Zipline Announces World’s Fastest Delivery Drone and Chinese Company Secures First Drone Delivery License

BY Zacc Dukowitz
4 April 2018

No longer are drone deliveries a thing relegated to press conferences featuring a delivery of a single box of doughnuts, or a single pizza, as they have been in the past.

This is 2018, and more and more drone delivery companies are stepping into full operational capability throughout the world. (To be fair, things were already heating up in 2017, but 2018 is seeing even more big moves from drone delivery companies.)

Let’s take a look at this week’s news.

Zipline Announces World’s Fastest Delivery Drone

Zipline is a California-based startup that has been delivering medical supplies by drone in Rwanda since 2016, and expanded their services to Tanzania back in August of 2017. Yesterday they announced the launch of a new fleet of drones that it claims are the fastest delivery drones in the world.

zipline new drone 2018

These fixed-wing autonomous drones can fly 99 miles, go up to 75 mph, carry about four pounds, and operate in heavy winds, rain, and high altitudes.

According to Zipline’s CEO, these new drones will allow the company to expand operations at each of their distribution centers in Rwanda so that they can make 500 deliveries a day, instead of 50.

Drone Delivery Start-Up Zipline Beats Amazon, UPS And FedEx To The Punch | CNBC

These new, fast delivery drones from Zipline are part of a complete overhaul of Zipline’s logistics system, which includes improvements to the system’s launch, autonomous flight, and landing capabilities.

These improvements will allow Zipline to decrease the amount of time needed to process an order from the time of receiving it to the time of launch from 10 minutes to just one minute, a change that will allow Zipline to reach populations of up to 10 million people.

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.

– Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline

This week Zipline also shared the news that they’re “partnering with state governments across the country” to work on implementing drone deliveries for medical supplies in the U.S. under the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (UIPP).

The specific states Zipline might work with haven’t yet been named, but we do know that there are six of them. We also know that North Carolina has submitted a proposal to the UIPP to create a medical delivery system within the state, and that Zipline is most likely on the short list of companies being considered there.

Chinese Company Secures First Drone Delivery License in the Country

In other drone delivery news this week, SF Express, China’s second-largest courier, just got the first official permit to deliver packages by drone. The license was granted by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, also known as the CAAC.

SF Express plans to use drones to make deliveries to rural, sparsely populated areas in China, and laid out three stages detailing how their aerial delivery system will deliver goods: 1) Planes transport large quantities of goods nationwide; 2) Big drones distribute those goods to local warehouses; 3) Small drones make final deliveries to customers.

SF Express has been working to make drone deliveries a reality in China since 2013, and possibly even earlier. Last year, an SF Express subsidiary delivered emergency supplies in China’s Yunnan province using a drone that was capable of carrying 1.3 tons.

China's First Emergency Drone Test Delivery Succeeds

The license granted to SF Express only allows them to operate in the airspace of eastern China.

Other details about the rollout, including the specific types of delivery services that will be offered, the cities where drones will make deliveries, and the types of drone permitted for use have not yet been released.

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