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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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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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.
Email Malek

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New York’s 50-Mile BVLOS Corridor

New York’s 50-Mile BVLOS Corridor

You may have heard about a recent $20 million dollar Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) corridor New York is building.  I thought you might be interested in our experiences so far in the construction of this capability, and our vision to build a venue for regional, national, and global UAS industry research and development.

The concept of a BVLOS corridor was put in motion after the awarding of FAA-designated Test Site status to Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, at the end of 2013. With the announcement, New York State recognized the opportunity it had in capitalizing on a new industry.  Concept took a huge step towards reality with Governor Cuomo’s announcement at the NASA UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Conference held in Syracuse, NY in November 2016.  Many millions of dollars would be committed to building a 50-mile corridor between the Test Site in Rome and Syracuse.

This project would complement the other New York State initiatives associated with the unmanned aircraft industry: GENIUS NY, a small business accelerator committing 5 million dollars per year for UAS start-ups; National Unmanned Aircraft System Standardized Testing and Rating (NUSTAR), a body set up to help establish and verify standards within the UAS industry, and Drone Zones, tax free or reduced areas set up for UAS businesses. The corridor, when completed, is expected to allow for total situational awareness (SA) within its 50 mile by 15 mile footprint, from 100’ into the flight levels, and cover towered Class C scheduled commercial service, towered Class D non-scheduled service, and non-towered GA airports.

Our discussions on the design of such a corridor centered on using technology to provide the best possible situational awareness (SA) on any flight activity taking place within it.  Our thought was not to control those aircraft, but to provide better capabilities than our clients would have with visual observers in the field.

Many terms are currently used to describe line of sight (LOS) operations such as BVLOS, EVLOS (Extended Visual Line of Sight), BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight).

While you probably have read many press releases announcing BVLOS authority, very few of those approvals allow operations without at least one visual observer in the field.

This assistance can keep the UAS insight or monitor for manned aircraft in the operations area.

NUAIR is currently seeking a BVLOS approval without visual observers in the field to cover the whole corridor.  Our approach is based on our crawl-walk-run philosophy at NUAIR. This means we would put each project that comes to us through our multiple safety protocols prior to allowing operations and slowly building up to a culmination of BVLOS, once the corridor is totally approved by the FAA.  At the same time using our crawl-walk-run approach, we have conducted numerous successful EVLOS operations with UAS, ranging from 5 lbs to 3,500 lbs.

We have developed a specific approach to utilize the corridor using multiple sensors of varying capability to detect targets that are cooperative and non-cooperative, and range in size from a sUAS or general aviation airplane.  The data we collect from the sensors is fused and displayed in real time on large screens in an Operations Center located at Griffiss.  NUAIR Operations Supervisors are on duty during all test site operations that involve the Ops Center. The supervisors provide SA to clients or NUAIR pilots flying from within the Ops Center or provide remote assistance in the field via a communications suite. The result is much earlier awareness of traffic than can be provided by visual observers.

All of our clients and partners benefit from the highly dedicated team at NUAIR and The NY UAS Test Site and their expert knowledge of radars, other electronic sensors, communications, data retrieval, storage, presentation, cyber, and more. We are also working with many other industry stakeholders and federal government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  FAA executives have visited the Ops Center at the NY UAS Test Site in the past year, and we look forward to having them back to share the progress we are making toward achieving BVLOS authority.

We are very proud of the progress that is being made at the NY UAS Test Site and the testing services we can provide our clients. Our approach is entirely specific to our region and takes full advantage of the corridor’s uniquely expansive size and superb SA. We are proud to provide clients a site to test their products – from platforms, command and control links to payloads. At the same time we are able to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing needs and demands of our rapidly evolving industry. NUAIR is excited to be part of Gov. Cuomo’s vision for New York State to provide real value to the growing UAS industry now and for years to come.

We are currently on track to have the needed radar and technologies fully installed into the entire length of the corridor by September of this year. With this complete build-out of the 50-mile corridor we plan to have a capstone demonstration during our NY UAS Symposium held in September, which will entail a full 50-mile, unmanned flight from Oswego to Rome.

Tony Basile, Chief Operations Officer – NUAIR

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