Instant drone delivery service Zipline announces $190 million in new financing

Instant drone delivery service Zipline announces $190 million in new financing

HALF MOON BAY, CA Friday, May 17th—Today, Zipline, the world’s first and only national-scale drone delivery service, announced it has raised $190 million in new financing, which values the company at over 1 billion dollars. The new funds will support the global expansion of Zipline’s lifesaving service across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas and position the company to serve 700 million people in the next five years.

“There is a growing feeling around the world that technology is not benefitting the vast majority of people,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “The old conventional wisdom has been that building a successful technology company requires exploiting people’s personal information or hijacking their attention. Zipline wants to establish a new model for success in Silicon Valley by showing the world that the right technology company with the right mission and the best team can help improve the lives of every person on the planet.”

About The New Funding

Zipline’s business is funded from three streams: both government and business customers pay for the use of Zipline’s instant delivery service; key philanthropic partners help to support the establishment of new distribution centres in low and middle-income markets, and venture capital investment supports scaling the company’s team and technology.

Zipline has raised a new round of financing in two phases over the last year to help support efforts to scale its team and technology across the globe. In the Spring of 2018, Zipline raised
$70 million from Katalyst Ventures, Baillie Gifford, GV, Temasek, Bright Success Capital, Goldman Sachs, Oakhouse Partners, Toyota Tsusho Corporation and the Design to Improve Life Fund.

The company also raised $120 million in the Spring of 2019, which included additional investments by Baillie Gifford and a new investor, The Rise Fund, a global Impact fund managed by TPG. Ballie Gifford and The Rise Fund were joined by returning investors Temasek, GV and Katalyst Ventures. The new funding places Zipline’s valuation at over $1.2 billion.

The new investors join some of the most respected investors in the world including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, and Stanford University, who have helped to support Zipline mission to bring its life-saving service to every person on the planet. In total, Zipline has raised $225 million from investors since its founding.

The Global Problem

Access to vital health products worldwide is hampered by the last mile problem: the difficulty of supplying medicine from central storage to remotely located patients when and where they need it. In the U.S., this problem requires health systems to tolerate high medicine waste, expensive
emergency trips, and sub-optimal care strategies. In far too many other areas, the same problem means that people in need of lifesaving care do not get the medicine they need to survive. Zipline’s medical drone delivery system is designed to eliminate this problem.

How Zipline Works

Zipline’s drone delivery service is dedicated to expanding healthcare access and saving lives around the globe. Health workers place orders by text message and receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average. Zipline’s drones take off and land from Zipline’s distribution centres, requiring no additional infrastructure at the clinics it serves.

The drones can carry 1.75 kilos of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometres an hour, and have an all-weather round trip range of 160 kilometres. Each Zipline distribution centre can deliver to an area of 20,000 km2, and typically serves 2-8 million people. Deliveries are made from the sky, with the drone descending to a safe height above the ground and air-dropping medicine by
parachute to a designated spot at the health centres it serves.

Zipline’s Record To Date

Since launching its drone delivery service in Rwanda in October of 2016, Zipline has flown over one million autonomous kilometres. The company has made more than 13,000 deliveries, about a third of which have been in emergencies when someone’s life was on the line. Zipline now delivers more than 65 per cent of Rwanda’s blood supply outside of the capital, Kigali.

In addition to its impact on lifesaving emergencies, Zipline’s just-in-time drone delivery service has helped transform the country’s medical supply chain. To date, this service has helped ensure that hospitals always have access to blood products, increasing the use of rare and specialized blood products by 175 per cent and reducing waste and spoilage by over 95 per cent.

In December of 2018, the Government of Rwanda expanded its blood delivery partnership with Zipline by adding the delivery of 169 other critical and lifesaving medical products, like emergency vaccines, routine vaccines, and essential medical supplies. Zipline also launched a second distribution centre in eastern Rwanda, allowing the company to provide lifesaving medicine to most of the country’s 12 million citizens within minutes.

In April of 2019, Zipline partnered with the Government of Ghana to launch the world’s largest medical drone delivery service. The revolutionary new service uses drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products, and life-saving medications.

The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from four distribution centres—each equipped with 30 drones—and deliver to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country. Together, all four distribution centres will make up to 600 on-demand delivery flights a day on behalf of the Government of Ghana. Each Zipline distribution centre has the capacity to make up to 500 flights per day.

The expansion of Zipline’s operations in both Ghana and Rwanda will increase the number of health facilities the company serves by almost 100x. In the last six months, Zipline has gone from one distribution in one country delivering blood to 21 hospitals to operating six distribution centres in two countries delivering more than 170 different vaccines, blood products, and medications to 2,500 health facilities serving close to 22 million people

Zipline’s Global Expansion in 2019 and Beyond

Zipline’s commercial partnerships with Ghana and Rwanda are expected to help save tens of thousands of lives over the next several years. Zipline’s goal is to serve 700 million people in the next five years. The company is hard at work catching up to demand to expand drone delivery services to developed and developing countries across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas throughout 2019, including the United States. Zipline is working with the U.S. state of North Carolina to launch its medical drone delivery as a part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP) in Q3 of 2019.

About Zipline

Zipline is an automated logistics company based in California. The company—which includes seasoned engineering and operations veterans from teams such as SpaceX, Tesla, Google, and Boeing—designs and operates an autonomous system for delivering lifesaving medicine to the world’s most difficult to reach places. Zipline’s mission is to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies. The most respected investors in the world support Zipline, including Baillie Gifford, Goldman Sachs, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, GV, The Rise Fund, a global Impact fund managed by TPG, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Temasek, Oakhouse Partners, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, and Stanford University.


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Tanks for the Assist: Agreement Will Boost Drone Firm’s Hydrogen Cell Payload

Tanks for the Assist: Agreement Will Boost Drone Firm’s Hydrogen Cell Payload

What’s not to love about hydrogen? It’s the most abundant element in the universe; it’s the vital fuel that keeps the sun burning for a few trillion years; and it holds the number-one position on the periodic table.

And, as it turns out, hydrogen can also keep drones in the air for longer periods of time. In fact, there are at least 8 Reasons why Hydrogen Will Power the Drone Industry’s Future.

Case in point – carbon-fiber vessel designer HyPerComp Engineering is entering the drone game.

The Utah-based company recently announced a new partnership to provide compressed hydrogen fuel tanks for commercial drone company Ballard Unmanned Systems.

The FCair Composite Overwrap Pressure Vessel (COPV) line includes 3.5-liter, 4.7-liter, and 7-liter models. The vessels will enable flight times of one to six hours for various fixed wing and multi-rotor drones.

Li-Po batteries typically fuel most commercially available drones but are limited due to the fact that most only power, at best, a 30-minute flight. This means pilots must constantly change battery packs during a given deployment – an especially untenable situation for autonomous drones. For military-grade fixed-wing UAVs, diesel can be used but is harmful to the environment and difficult to store.

Clean-energy hydrogen fuel systems are carbon-free, renewable sources that may be a viable option for both rotor and winged drones going forward. Hydrogen fuel packs are produced by electrolysis to water, using energy from any source of energy including wind, solar, hydroelectric, or fossil sources.

“We look forward to the coming months and years as we broaden the FCair product line, and ramp from field trial to deployment volumes,” HyPerComp CEO Daryl Thompson said. “Our partnership with Ballard has benefited from both companies’ commitment to enabling the commercial hydrogen UAV market, and to assuring that the needed safety, performance, and interoperability standards are in place.”

In 2017, Ballard released a new hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion system which led to a contract with Boeing’s Insitu subsidiary to power test flights of the company’s ScanEagle drone platform.

Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.

Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.

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Hybrid VTOL manufacturer Volans-i raises $20 million series A funding

Hybrid VTOL manufacturer Volans-i raises $20 million series A funding

Volans-i, Inc., an on-demand aerial delivery business based in San Francisco, has raised $20 Million in Series A funding. The funding was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, who was the lead investor for Volans-i’s seed round funding, with support from Y Combinator.

Volans-i builds and operates high-speed long-range drones for on-demand delivery of time-critical shipments. These high-payload unmanned aerial systems (UAS) provide delivery services for commercial, defense and humanitarian applications including delivery of parts and medical supplies. The company was founded in 2015 by Hannan Parvizian and Wesley Zheng and is headquartered in San Francisco, with a production facility in Concord, CA.

The Series A funding enables Volans-i to expand its operations in the commercial and defense markets and build out its product offerings.​ ​“Volans-i brings a new means of transportation and aerial autonomy to the market,” says Hannan Parvizian, CEO of Volans-i. “We are very proud to have the support of Lightspeed Partners and our other investors as we expand our services and support our customers.”

Volans-i leverages drone technology as a transportation method to help customers gain control of their supply chain and save millions of dollars on downtime and inventory. The company provides key support to commercial and defence industries, including construction, mining, oil & gas, medical and heavy equipment operations. Volans-i also creates an avenue for customers and communities to receive life-saving supplies when needed most.

Volans-i was a proud partner to an innovative approach to disaster relief in Puerto Rico in 2018-19. In the wake of natural disasters, poor access to healthcare and supplies contributes significantly to illness and mortality. Working with Merck & Co. Inc. and Direct Relief, the Volans-i team tested drone flights and the coordinated processes needed to provide medical supplies to disaster areas. Volans-i provided the drones and the piloting, as well as the quick securing of flight permissions. Securing inter-island flight permissions has traditionally been a major stumbling block in the implementation of emergency supply drone cargo deliveries.

The success of the mission demonstrated Volans-i’s expertise and capacity to provide aid to disaster-struck regions with its unmanned vehicles. “Our services via unmanned aerial systems can help save lives in disaster areas”, says Parvizian. “We are pleased to collaborate with Merck and other partners on this innovative new model of disaster-relief delivery.”

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The FAA’s New Rules for Recreational Drones

The FAA’s New Rules for Recreational Drones

It’s time.  The FAA will now implement some of the changes in regulations for recreational drones which will follow on the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act passed last year.

The FAA Reauthorization Act repealed Section 336 of the previous FAA Reauthorization, which protected recreational aircraft from new laws.  The move to repeal came in response to pressure from both national security agencies and commercial drone advocacy groups for more oversight over the hobby.

The changes in regulations now outlined by the FAA clarify where hobby drones can fly, and bring them into the some of the same regulatory processes that commercial drones currently follow.

Recreational flyers still don’t require a special certification (in future, they will need to take an online knowledge test before flying- still in development.)  They still need to follow the long-established safety rules, including staying under 400 feet in altitude.

The major changes, however, relate to flying in restricted airspace – especially the controlled space around airports.  Right now – until the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) is updated to include recreational flyers – recreational flyers can only fly at defined, fixed sites within 5 miles of airports.  (See details and links in FAA press release below.)

On a media access call this morning, the FAA’s Jay Merkle, executive director for UAS Integration and Teri Bristol, chief operating officer for the Air Traffic Organization, explained the changes. “We view this as a very positive step forward for the safe integration of UAS,” said Merkle.  “Including everyone under the same rules really does move everything forward.”

Teri Bristol emphasized that the FAA Reauthorization Act did “affirm the FAA’s authority” over recreational flight, which means that they will need to obtain the same authorizations as commercial drones in controlled airspace.  She also points out that the new requirement to obtain authorization prior to flight in controlled areas replaces the previous regulation that required “notification.”

Bristol said that they are making several upgrades to systems in order to accommodate recreational flyers, including LAANC.  When the LAANC updates are complete, “It brings recreational flyers under the same process as commercial flyers,” says Merkle.

“We know that processes will evolve,” says Bristol.  “But we see this as a very positive thing.”

Asked how the new regulations will effect Remote ID and Tracking capabilities: “It makes Remote ID regulations effective – we’ll be able to include recreational flyers in that initiative,” Merkle said.

The problem with the new regulations is the same as it has always been – while law abiding and well informed recreational flyers will stay out of controlled airspace, no regulation will suffice to keep drone pilots who are simply unaware of the rules 5 miles away from airports. It’s up to the drone industry – both recreational and commercial – to help with the efforts to educate new pilots.

The following is an FAA press release.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is implementing changes for recreational drone flyers mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (PDF).

While recreational flyers may continue to fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace without specific certification or operating authority from the FAA, they are now required to obtain prior authorization from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace around airports. Furthermore, they must comply with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions when flying in controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

The new requirement to obtain an airspace authorization prior to flying a drone in controlled airspace replaces the old requirement to notify the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower prior to flying within five miles of an airport.

Until further notice, air traffic control facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational drones in controlled airspace on a case-by-case basis. Instead, to enable operations under the congressionally-mandated exception for limited recreational drone operations, the FAA is granting temporary airspace authorizations to fly in certain “fixed sites” in controlled airspace throughout the country. The fixed sites (MS Excel) are listed online and will be routinely updated.

The sites are also shown as blue dots on Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Maps. The maps depict the maximum altitude above ground level at which a drone may be flown safely for each location in controlled airspace.

In the future, recreational flyers will be able to obtain authorization from the FAA to fly in controlled airspace. The FAA currently has a system called the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which is available to non-recreational pilots who operate under the FAA’s small drone rule (PDF) (Part 107). The FAA is upgrading LAANC to allow recreational flyers to use the system. For now, however, recreational flyers who want to operate in controlled airspace may only do so at the fixed sites.

Another new provision in the 2018 Act requires recreational flyers to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. They must maintain proof that they passed, and make it available to the FAA or law enforcement upon request. The FAA is currently developing a training module and test in coordination with the drone community. The test will ensure that recreational flyers have the basic aeronautical knowledge needed to fly safely.

Some requirements have not changed significantly. In addition to being able to fly without FAA authorization below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace, recreational users must still register their drones, fly within visual line-of-sight, avoid other aircraft at all times, and be responsible for complying with all FAA airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

Additionally, recreational flyers can continue to fly without obtaining a remote pilot certificate provided they meet the eight statutory conditions of Section 349 of the Act, which are described in a Federal Register notice.

If recreational flyers do not meet any of the conditions, they could choose to operate under Part 107 with a remote pilot certification. Drone operators who fail to comply with the appropriate operating authority may be subject to FAA enforcement action.

Furthermore, flying a drone carelessly or recklessly may also result in FAA enforcement action.

The FAA will help recreational flyers learn and understand the changes by posting updates and additional guidance, including regulatory changes, on the FAA website.

If you are thinking about buying a drone, the FAA can help you get started with registration and important safety information.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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DHL launches its first regular fully-automated and intelligent urban drone delivery service

DHL launches its first regular fully-automated and intelligent urban drone delivery service

DHL Express, the world’s leading international express delivery service provider, and the world’s leading intelligent autonomous aerial vehicle company EHang have entered into a strategic partnership to jointly launch a fully automated and intelligent smart drone delivery solution to tackle the last-mile delivery challenges in the urban areas of China. The launch ceremony was held today at the EHang Command and Control Center in Guangzhou, with the attendance of senior executives from both companies. This cutting-edge solution takes its inaugural flight for a DHL customer, making DHL the first international express company to provide such a service in China. It marks a new milestone in both companies’ continuous efforts to bring innovative and intelligent solutions with greater automation to the market.

“We are delighted to be partnering with EHang to set a new innovation milestone with this new fully-automated and intelligent drone logistics solution, which combines the strength of the world’s largest international express company together with one of the leading UAV companies in the world,” said Wu Dongming, CEO, DHL Express China. “This is an exciting time for the logistics sector, with the continued growth of the Chinese economy and cross-border trade, particularly in South China and the Greater Bay Area, which is home to an increasing number of SMEs and startups. This means there is a tremendous volume of logistics needs, which in turn creates new opportunities for implementing innovative solutions that can continuously drive growth with greater efficiency, sustainability and less cost.”

The new customized route, which has been exclusively created for a DHL customer, covers a distance of approximately eight kilometres between the customer premises and the DHL service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province,. Using the most advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in EHang’s newly-launched Falcon series, featuring the highest level of intelligence, automation, safety and reliability, the new intelligent drone delivery solution overcomes the complex road conditions and traffic congestion common to urban areas. It Page 2 of 3 reduces one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to only eight minutes and can save costs of up to 80% per delivery, with reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint compared with road transportation.

Mr. Hu Huazhi, Founder & CEO of EHang, said, “Together with DHL we are very glad to bring the first smart drone delivery service route to China in Guangzhou; this marks a new beginning in building air logistics for smart cities. Riding on today’s launch, we expect smart drone delivery as an innovative logistics solution to be expanded and realized in more areas, and we look forward to working with DHL in building the eco-system for a multi-dimensional urban air transport system.”

The EHang Falcon smart drone, with eight propellers on four arms, is designed with multiple redundant systems for full backup, and smart and secure flight control modules. Its high performance features include vertical take-off and landing, high accuracy GPS and visual identification, smart flight path planning, fully-automated flight and real-time network connection and scheduling. As a fully-automated and intelligent solution, the drones, which can carry up to 5kg of cargo per flight, take off and land atop intelligent cabinets that were specifically developed for the fully autonomous loading and offloading of the shipment. The intelligent cabinets seamlessly connect with automated processes including sorting, scanning and storage of express mail, and will feature high-tech functions such as facial recognition and ID scanning.

This smart drone delivery solution will enhance DHL’s delivery capabilities and create a new customer experience in the logistics sector that opens up even more opportunities for sustainable growth and greater economic contribution. Given the growing prominence of B2C business operations and delivery in China, employing drones in express delivery services offers an innovative solution for meeting the increasing demands for time-sensitive delivery, particularly for last mile delivery in urban areas.

Building on the launch of its first fully automated, intelligent drone delivery solution in China, DHL will continue to identify new routes that can be developed for clients in need of tailored customer services and logistics solutions and will work closely with EHang to create a second generation of drones in the near future that will further improve capacity and range in drone operated express delivery.

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Zurich Researchers Teach Drone to Dodge with Dynamic Obstacle Avoidance

Zurich Researchers Teach Drone to Dodge with Dynamic Obstacle Avoidance

One of the many things preventing urban drone deliveries reaching Amazone Prime levels of mass adoption is the threat of interference, whether that’s from pets, kids, thieves, gun-toting neighbors or rogue footballs.

Researchers at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, are working on sense and avoid technology that could provide drones with a more dynamic form of self-defense.

The next level of obstacle avoidance?

A team from the University of Zurich’s Robotics and Perception Group have developed a drone that uses a camera and an onboard Visual-Inertial Odometry system to see an incoming ball and dodge out of the way.

The system takes a different approach to the kind of sense and avoid technologies we have seen from DJI and Skydio – which are focused on avoiding collisions with static obstacles.

Read more: New Developer Platform Could Make Skydio R1 The Go-To Commercial Drone

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In part that’s because the University of Zurich researchers’ drone used a sensor called an event camera. Rather than recording frames each second and passing them on for software to analyse, event cameras work by only sending data when the pixels shift or spike in intensity.

Read more: 3 Technologies That Could Transform Future Drone Operations

This reduces the processing bottlenecks that restrict a conventional sense and avoid system, cuts down the latency and results in much-improved response times.

These kinds of sensor are much more expensive than their standard camera counterparts, so it could be a long time before they are used to develop sophisitcated obstacle avoidance systems in consumer and professional drones.

The work is outlined in a research paper, entitled ‘How Fast is Too Fast? The Role of Perception Latency in High-Speed Sense and Avoid’. It was written by researchers Davide Falanga, Suseong Kim, and Davide Scaramuzza and can be read in full here.

Read more: Exclusive: Parrot Explain ANAFI’s Lack of Obstacle Avoidance

Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation. He handles product reviews, major releases and keeps an eye on the enthusiast market for DroneLife.
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