Zipline unveils P2 delivery drone that docks and recharges autonomously

logistics Start the zipline Since the company was founded in 2014, its autonomous electric drones have flown more than 38 million miles. Zipline puts its first fleet to work in Rwanda, delivering blood and other medical supplies to clinics and hospitals. Since then, the Silicon Valley startup has expanded its service to six other countries, with limited delivery services and fulfillment centers in three states.

On Wednesday, Zipline unveiled its next-generation aircraft, which it hopes will make fast air deliveries an everyday convenience for customers across the U.S., even in densely populated urban areas.

Zipline’s new drone, called the Platform 2, or P2 Zip, is capable of carrying up to 8 pounds of cargo within a 10-mile radius and can land packages in spaces as small as a table or doorstep.

“The reason this number matters,” said Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, Zipline CEO and co-founder, “is because when you look at e-commerce in the U.S., the vast majority of packages are 5 pounds or less.”

Zipline co-founders, CEO Keller Rinaudo Cliffton and CTO Keenan Wryobek


The P2 Zip can travel 10 miles in 10 minutes, and the company’s delivery is about seven times faster than any typical service you order today, the CEO said. Rinaudo Cliffton said the speedy delivery of drones could end “porch pirates,” which refers to the theft of packages left at the door when customers are not home.

Zipline’s original drone, the P1 Zip, used a fixed-wing or glider-like design, while the P2 used lift and cruise propellers as well as fixed wings. These help it move precisely and quietly, even in rainy or windy conditions.

To deliver goods to customers’ doorsteps, the P2 Zip hovers 300 feet above the ground and dispatches a tiny aircraft called a “robot” and a container. The robot descends on a slender rope, using fan-shaped thrusters to move quietly into position before dropping the package for retrieval.

Rinaudo Cliffton said Zipline’s original P1 drone will continue to be produced and widely used. The P1 Zip can fly farther, carrying up to 5 pounds of cargo within a 60-mile radius, but it requires more space for takeoff, landing and “landing.”

The P1 Zip drops the cargo with a parachute attached so its payload lands in a space about the size of two parking spaces. Once the P1 Zip returns to base, an employee needs to disassemble it and install a new one, putting in freshly charged batteries for the next flight.

Zipline’s new P2 Zip can be docked and started automatically at a charging station that looks a bit like a street lamp with an arm with a large disc attached to it:

Rendering of P2 Zips charging in a dock.


Depending on zoning and permits, Zipline stops can be installed in individual parking spaces or next to buildings. Zipline envisions docks next to restaurants or hospital facades in downtown shopping districts, where robots can be inserted into windows or lifts to be retrieved and reloaded by indoor healthcare workers.

Rinaudo Cliffton said setting up one of the charging stations was about the same amount of work as installing an electric car charger.

Prior to developing P2 Zip, Zipline had established logistics networks in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda. It operates some drone delivery networks in the U.S., North Carolina, Arkansas, and Utah — but P2 will help it expand that network.

Partners planning to test deliveries through P2 Zip include healthy fast-casual restaurant Sweetgreen, Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, Michigan Medicine, Multicare Healthcare System in Tacoma, Washington, and the government of Rwanda.

Zipline is not alone in its ambitions. Zipline is part of a project with other startups like DroneUp and Flytrex to provide walmart. Meanwhile, Amazon has been working to make drone deliveries a reality for nearly a decade, though business has been struggling To overcome strict regulations and low demand from testing customers.

Quiet and green are the goals

Zipline’s head of engineering, Jo Mardall, told CNBC that the company puts much of its engineering focus on making sure the drones are not only safe and energy-efficient, but also quiet enough for residents to want to use them.

“People worry about noise, and rightly so. I worry about noise. I don’t want to live in a world with a bunch of loud planes flying over my house,” he said. “Success for us is like being behind the scenes, barely audible.” That means being closer to rustling leaves than a car drives by.

The robotic component of the P2 Zip is designed to enter a distribution center through a small portal, where it is loaded with goods for delivery.


The P2 Zip has a unique propeller design, Mardall explained, adding: “The fact that the Zip is delivered from 300 feet really helps a lot.”

Mardall and Rinaudo Cliffton stress that Zipline’s goal is to have a net environmental impact while giving businesses a better way to get everything from hot meals to refrigerated vaccines to customers in a timely manner.

They explain that unmanned aerial vehicles avoid traffic congestion from worsening by flying overhead. Because Zipline’s drones are electric, they can be powered by renewable or clean energy without the emissions from burning jet fuel, gasoline or diesel.

But most importantly, the CEO said, Zipline’s drone deliveries allow the company to “centralize more inventory” and “significantly reduce waste.”

a study Published by The Lancet The CEO bragged about finding that hospitals using the Zipline service were able to reduce their overall annual waste of blood supplies by 67%.

“That’s an exciting statistic, and a big deal. It’s saving the health system millions of dollars by reducing last-mile inventory and sending inventory only when needed.”

Zipline aims to bring that efficiency to every corner of commerce, the CEO said.It also aims to make the cost of drone deliveries competitive with existing services such as fedex and upsor a food delivery app like uber Eat and Instacart.

But first, the startup plans to use about 100 of the new P2 Zips for more than 10,000 test flights this year. With its existing P1 drone, Zipline is on track to make about 1 million deliveries by the end of 2023, and by 2025 it expects to be operating more flights per year than most commercial airlines.

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