When we the last time i heard of the zip line, the California-based company used parachutes to drop packages from its ground delivery drones. However, the company’s just-announced Platform 2 (P2) system reduces loads inside self-guided “droids.”
Here’s a quick rundown of how P2 is supposed to work…
A worker at one location starts by placing an item of cargo inside a droid – it’s basically a simplified box with a propeller wrapped around the back. At a docking station there, the droid is then loaded into the belly of one of Zipline’s P2 Zip eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) drones.
The P2 Zip continues to fly to the destination address, remaining at an altitude of at least 300 feet (91 m) the entire time. Once it reaches that location, it hovers in place while lowering the droid onto a retractable tether.
Using a downward-facing camera and other onboard sensors, the droid is able to see its target landing zone, such as the front steps of a house. It thus activates its propeller to ensure that it reaches that mark, compensating for factors such as crosswinds. Once the droid lands, the recipient opens their hatch and collects their item. The droid is then winched back to the drone, which in most scenarios returns to its starting point.
It should be noted that the system is limited to loads weighing no more than 8 lbs (3.6 kg) and the drones have a round-trip service radius of 10 miles (16 km). That said, if they fly directly from one charging station to another – where they can recharge their battery – their range is 24 miles (39 km).
A number of corporate clients have already signed up for the service.
Michigan Medicine, MultiCare Health System and Salt Lake City’s Intermountain Health all plan to use it to dispense prescriptions, while existing Zipline customer, the Rwandan government will use it for home deliveries, hotels and healthcare facilities. Grocery chain Sweetgreen also plans to use the service to deliver groceries to customers’ homes.
The Platform 2 system is shown in the following video.
Zipline Platform 2 end to end