Zipline’s New P2 Drones: Next-Gen Autonomous Delivery Drones that Recharge Autonomously

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Logistics startup Zipline has unveiled its latest autonomous delivery drone, the P2 Zip, which can dock and recharge autonomously at a charging station. Since 2014, Zipline has flown over 38 million miles delivering blood and medical supplies to clinics and hospitals in Rwanda and other African countries, and it now aims to expand its delivery services in the US.

The P2 Zip can dock and power up autonomously at a charging station that resembles a street lamp with an arm and a large disc attached to it. Zipline envisages the charging docks being installed in a single parking spot or alongside a building, and the droid can be inserted into a window or dumbwaiter and retrieved by healthcare workers indoors.

Before developing the P2 Zip, Zipline had established logistics networks in several African countries and was operating drone delivery networks in the US in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Utah. Partners who plan to test deliveries via the P2 Zip include fast-casual restaurant Sweetgreen, Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, Michigan Medicine, Multicare Healthcare System in Tacoma, Wash., and the government of Rwanda.

The P2 Zips have a unique propeller design that makes them almost inaudible from 300 feet above the ground, making them safe, energy-efficient, and quiet enough that residents can embrace their use. According to Zipline, its drone delivery system can have a net-beneficial impact on the environment and reduce waste while allowing companies to centralize more inventory.

The company is planning to launch an instant-ordering service for groceries and other daily goods that it says can reduce delivery emissions by nearly 98% over combustion cars. Zipline co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo Cliffton believes it’s crucial that this service be offered in a way that is actually good for the environment.

However, before Zipline can reach its goal of serving customers nationwide, drone rules will have to catch up. A rule-making committee at the Federal Aviation Administration has established a pathway to begin allowing drone operators to fly beyond the line of sight of observers stationed on the ground, a step that Zipline has argued is critical to unlocking the benefits of drones.

Zipline faces stiff competition from Amazon’s Prime Air, Alphabet’s Wing, and United Parcel Service in the race to conquer the US drone delivery market. Zipline has taken an indirect route to cracking the US market, making its first delivery in Rwanda and expanding operations to several African countries, where it carries vaccines and other medical supplies to thousands of clinics.

Zipline’s new drone could have a significant impact on the logistics and delivery industry, reducing emissions and waste while centralizing inventory and reducing costs. The company plans to conduct more than 10,000 test flights using about 100 new P2 Zips this year, and by 2025, it expects to operate more flights annually than most commercial airlines.

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