Zipline to launch medical drone deliveries under FAA programme

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Zipline is to work with state governments in the USA to launch medical drone deliveries as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP).

The California-based automated logistics company launched the world’s first national drone delivery service in Rwanda in October 2016.

Since establishing a distribution centre with 15 drones to deliver blood, plasma and platelets to 21 hospitals across the west of Rwanda, Zipline has flown 300,000 kilometres delivering 7,000 units of blood over 4,000 flights.

Zipline is now delivering more than 20 per cent of Rwanda’s blood supply outside the capital, Kigali and has significantly reduced waste and spoilage of blood products.

A second distribution centre will be opened in Rwanda to cover the entire country.

The FAA programme in the USA is designed to integrate autonomous, beyond visual line of sight flights over populated areas into the FAA’s National Airspace System.

The UASIPP projects are expected to be formally approved in the coming weeks and enter into formal Memorandums of Agreement with applicants by 7 May 2018, with Zipline projects expected to commence operation by the end of 2018.

Zipline chief executive officer, Keller Rinaudo says: “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 August 2017 Zipline announced plans to launch drone delivery services in Tanzania to deliver blood transfusions supplies, emergency vaccines, HIV medication, antimalarials, antibiotics, lab reagents and basic surgical supplies, with the intention of operation 2,000 deliveries a day.

Zipline has also unveiled a new autonomous aircraft, which it says flies farther, faster and with more cargo than before even in high altitude, heavy wind or rain.

The new aircraft is part of a complete redesign of Zipline’s logistics system to dramatically improve the system’s launch, autonomous flight and landing capabilities.

The redesigned aircraft reduce the amount of time between receiving an order and launching flights from 10 minutes to one, increase the number of daily delivery flights that each distribution centre can handle from 50 to 500 and expand the radius of each centre to service populations of up to 10 million people.

The Zipline vehicle is an autonomous fixed wing style aircraft capable of flying at a top speed of 128kmh with a range of 160 kilometres carrying up to 1.75 kilos of cargo.