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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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Medical drone delivery spreads to Tanzania

Zipline drone
Zipline’s drones have been delivering blood supplies for months in Rwanda. (Zipline Photo)

While Amazon continues testing drone delivery systems for popcorn and other consumer goods, a startup called Zipline is expanding its fully operational medical drone delivery system from Rwanda to Tanzania to serve a desperate global health need.

Among the effort’s backers is the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Today Tanzanian health officials announced that they’ll launch what may well rank as the world’s largest drone delivery service in the first quarter of 2018.

When the system is up and running, fixed-wing drones will make up to 2,000 deliveries a day to more than 1,000 health facilities that serve 10 million people, according to a news release issued by California-based Zipline.

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Zipline drone venture is on a medical mission

Image: Zip drone plane
Zipline’s fixed-wing Zip drone airplane makes a flyover. (Credit: Zipline)

A drone delivery venture called Zipline International is coming out of stealth mode with backing from big-name investors and a humanitarian mission in mind.

During a Bay Area demo broadcast via Periscope, Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo and other executives showed how they plan to use mini-planes launched with compressed air to deliver blood and medical supplies in Rwanda starting in July.

Zipline has been working on a fleet of 15 electric-powered, GPS-guided Zip drones for a couple of years, but the startup has been flying under the radar (so to speak) until this month.

Rinaudo says the San Francisco startup has raised $18 million in funding from investors including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures and Stanford University. (Much of that investment came during Zipline’s previous incarnation as Romotive.) Zipline’s employees are said to include aerospace engineers from NASA, SpaceX, the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin.