World’s fastest ever delivery drone could deliver medical supplies in U.S.

Zipline is best known for its commercial drone delivery service delivering blood supplies in Rwanda. Now the company wants to step up its life-saving game. To do this, it’s unveiled what it claims to be the fastest commercial delivery drone on the planet. The redesigned drone will allow the company to make up to 500 deliveries every single day.

The new winged drone aircraft weighs in at 44 pounds and is capable of carrying cargo weighing up to about four pounds. It boasts a top speed of 128 kilometers per hour, an impressive cruising speed of 101 kilometers per hour, and a maximum round-trip range of 160 kilometers. To put those figures in perspective, it means flying up to four times faster than the average quadcopter drone, while serving an area 200 times as large.

“Our first-generation aircraft and logistics system allowed us to create the first and only drone delivery service in the world, which is helping to save lives in Rwanda every day,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said in a statement. “We’ve taken everything Zipline has learned making thousands of life-critical deliveries and flying hundreds of thousands of kilometers and redesigned our entire system and operation from top to bottom. The new aircraft and distribution center system we’re unveiling today will help Zipline scale to meet the needs of countries around the world — including the United States.”

That’s right: Zipline is planning to expand to the U.S. It has applied to participate in a trial organized by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The trial is the FAA’s new Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, designed to allow state and local governments, alongside private companies, to experiment with deploying drones. Zipline’s U.S. operations are expected to commence by the end of 2018. The FAA’s findings from the program will ultimately inform later rules about commercial drone usage.

“Billions of people on earth lack access to critical medicine,” Rinaudo continued. “In East Africa, Zipline’s drones bring people the medicine they need, when they need it in a way that reduces waste, cost, and inventory while increasing access and saving lives. We’ve been hard at work to improve our technology and are ready to help save lives in America and around the world.”

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