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Zipline adds zip to drone delivery service

Zipline drone
Zipline’s next-generation drone can hit a top speed of 80 mph. (Zipline Photo)

A California-based aerial delivery venture called Zipline has unveiled what it calls “the fastest commercial delivery drone on Earth,” capable of flying as fast as 80 mph (128 km/h).

Sustained cruising speed for the latest version of Zipline’s fixed-wing drone is almost 63 mph (101 km/h), which is about 13 mph faster than the previous version. It has a round-trip range of 100 miles, and can carry a maximum load of nearly 4 pounds.

The drone isn’t the only thing that’s been upgraded: Changes in the company’s logistics system have reduced the time from receipt of an order to the launch of a fulfillment flight from 10 minutes to one minute.

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What mobile phone data can reveal about you

Image: Rwandans with phones
The mobile phone penetration rate in Rwanda is more than 70 percent. (Credit: Joshua Blumenstock)

Researchers have analyzed data about mobile phone use in Rwanda to figure out how wealthy a phone’s user is – and they say they might be able to do the same kind of analysis for any other country.

The study, published today in the journal Science, applies big-data models to look at much more than income. The Rwandan data, for example, could be massaged to predict which phone users owned a motorcycle or a TV.

Joshua Blumenstock, the study’s lead author and an information scientist at the University of Washington, is now working on a follow-up project to see how easily the computer models can be applied to places beyond Rwanda.

“In every country, we hypothesize that there’s a relationship between how people use their phone and how wealthy they are,” he said in a Science podcast. “The exact nature of that relationship is going to change from one country to another, and it might even change from one year to the next within a country. But fundamentally, you’d think that there are these relationships that exist.”

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