Working with the FAA to launch the longest range drone delivery network in the U.S., in the “first in flight” state.
The technology to give every person almost immediate access to the goods they need, while reducing carbon emissions, costs per trip, and traffic on roadways, is here and it has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years. We’ve been able to see a profound impact of this logistics solution across whole nations: from delivering over 5 million vaccines within cold-chain parameters, and 120,00 units of blood for emergency use, to expanded agro-veterinary use resulting in increased animal welfare and household income. We’ve even started to see it being used to improve customer access to retail goods.
The existing scaled use of our technology and the critical impact it has had on remote communities can cause people to discount the impact that a company like Zipline can have in economies like the US, Europe, or Asia, but the opportunity is real. We are not forgetting these communities, where the same inequities and difficulties in access exist. And where last-mile delivery is poised to increase traffic congestion by 21% in the next 10 years. We know that an autonomous and zero-emissions aerial delivery solution could reverse that trajectory — making roadways clear, communities healthier and happier, while creating little to no carbon emissions.
Zipline’s impact, to date, was enabled by the safety mitigation capacity of our drone technology and of its surrounding airspace. This type of mitigation was rooted in strategy (when to fly and where), among other factors. To date our strategic mitigation meant limiting use of our technology in only uncomplex or modernized airspaces (those where aircrafts, air traffic control and UAV can share airspace through sophisticated communication). Unfortunately, not every airspace hits those marks, including the one we have right here in the U.S.
Ultimately, we imagine a world where physical products can be moved as easily as sending a text message. To truly serve all people of the world, we would need to enable our drones to fly safely in any airspace. Companies like Zipline should have to prove that their UAV operations are safe and reliable in busy and even the most complicated airspaces, while the regulating authorities, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), of these airspaces ensure UAV integration into the National Airspace System.
Over these last few years, we’ve researched, developed, and tested detect and avoid (DAA) technology — adding tactical mitigation to work in tandem with strategic techniques. We developed sound-based DAA that would allow our drones to hear intruders in their airspace — even through clouds. Our system combines the lightweight hardware needed for smaller, autonomous aircraft with the precision required for safe operations, while solving challenges for autonomous flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in uncontrolled airspace. Sound gives us 360 degree awareness — something radar can’t do.
“Part 135” is a certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that allows aircrafts to fly beyond visual line of sight in the United States — an ability to fly longer distances, with autonomy. To achieve it, companies need to work in lockstep with the FAA, running flight checks on visual line of sight deliveries (securing part 107), on certifying our aircraft and flying it in extended visual line of sight (unlocking complex operations like flight in clouds) with visual observers (44807), to finally achieve extended visual line of sight: safe flights without human, on-the-ground observation (Part 135).
This level of clearance requires that companies wanting to make a more viable solution for last-mile delivery in complex airspaces consider first and foremost the safety of their communities and customers. Our DAA technology, which has been tested in compliance with the FAA, is giving Zipline a chance to serve U.S. communities — to grow a more equitable and sustainable supply chain and last-mile delivery network right here. The FAA has created the solution space and Zipline has answered with our own innovation to fly safely.
With the hard work of Zipline engineering and UAV pilots working hand-in-hand with the FAA, Zipline achieved FAA Part 135 accreditation in the United States on Friday, June 17. We are putting this clearance to use in America’s “first in flight” state, where we are using our certification to grow on-demand access to medical products from pharmaceutical companies Novant, MagellanRX, and Cardinal Health. Each healthcare partner will utilize Zipline’s service in a different way to improve patient care, implement instant delivery, and drive efficiency in North Carolina. Through automated on-demand delivery, organizations and their customers can receive deliveries in as little as fifteen minutes. The North Carolina Zipline distribution center is capable of serving customers within a 7,800 square mile area.
Zipline is starting to realize the mission of our company: to truly give all people of the world sustainable access to what they need, when they need it.