Drone delivery has been in the news frequently recently, as both UPS and Wing claim firsts in commercial drone delivery in the U.S. Wing is now delivering commercial goods within a town in Virginia: UPS is delivering blood samples at medical campuses. These are important steps forward for commercial drone delivery – but the flights are of limited distance. At an undisclosed military facility in the Western U.S., however, medical drone delivery heroes Zipline have been working with the Department of Defense to prove drone technology can be lifesaving in combat situations – and they flew what the company describes as “the longest-range commercial drone delivery flight in U.S. history: a 79-mile round trip delivery flight at an average speed of 64 miles per hour.”
That’s a further demonstration of the potential for drone delivery, and a demonstration held here in the U.S., while most of Zipline’s deliveries have been made overseas. It’s also a potential game changer for both soldiers and civilians in combat situations, as Zipline proves that drones can deliver life-saving medical supplies and critical care in conflict and disaster relief scenarios.
ZIPLINE DEPLOYS MEDICAL DRONE DELIVERY TECHNOLOGY
TO AUSTRALIA DURING MULTINATIONAL MILITARY FORCES EXERCISES
Could Redefine Lifesaving Care in Combat, Humanitarian And Disaster Relief Scenarios
Comes on the heels of longest-range commercial drone delivery in US history
HALF MOON BAY, CA Tuesday, October 22nd— Zipline, the world’s first and only national scale drone delivery service, announced that it has successfully forward-deployed to Australia to pilot its life-saving technology during multinational forces exercises with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Australian Defense Force (ADF). The goal of the deployment was to show how Zipline’s logistics network of autonomous delivery drones could help transform emergency medicine and critical care in conflict, as well as in humanitarian and disaster relief scenarios.
“The U.S. military is one of the largest providers of life-saving health care and critical aid in conflict, humanitarian and disaster relief scenarios around the world,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “Zipline is proud to partner with the Defense Department because our goal is to get people the care they need to stay healthy and alive no matter where they are in the world and no matter the circumstances.”
The medical drone delivery exercises in Australia were part of a collaboration between Zipline, The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), and The Naval Medical Research Center’s Naval Advanced Medical Development (NMRC-NAMD). DIU works to accelerate commercial technologies to solve DoD challenges. And NMRC-NAMD is focused on enhancing the readiness, survivability, and resilience of Sailors and Marines. The goal of the exercise was to provide the military with the ability to evaluate how this new technology could instantly deliver critical and life-saving supplies during combat.
“DIU’s makes it possible for cutting-edge, civilian technology companies like Zipline to serve our country, which is a privilege,” said Rinaudo. “We look forward to continuing working with them.”
In 2018, Zipline DIU, and NMRC-NAMD began exploring how drone delivery could transform critical care in forward-deployed environments. As a result of that work, In October of 2018. The DoD asked Zipline to demonstrate its ability to rapidly deploy, build, and operate its instant drone delivery and logistics technology to an austere environment on an undisclosed military facility in the Western United States.
Zipline flew 227 sorties in various conditions, including darkness, rain, and zero-visibility fog. Zipline also demonstrated its ability to respond to frontline mass casualty events by swarm eight long-range delivery drones to a single area.
As a part of the exercise, Zipline completed the longest-range commercial drone delivery flight in U.S. history: a 79-mile round trip delivery flight at an average speed of 64 miles per hour. Currently, the maximum distance flown by commercial drone operators testing their technology in the United States ranges from 150 feet to a few miles at best.
After successfully demonstrating the potential of its technology during the U.S. exercise, Zipline was asked to forward deploy in the field and integrate its service with a Marine Air-Ground Task Force for operational testing during multinational exercises between the U.S. and Australian militaries in Australia between July 30th and September 5th, 2019.
Throughout four multinational force exercises—codenamed Bundey I, Koolendong-19, Bundey II, and Crocodile Response—Zipline demonstrated how its instant drone delivery capability could help save lives in austere and tactical emergency environments, which included live-fire artillery. The company made over 400 deliveries, which included: mock blood resupplies to forward-deployed Shock Trauma Platoons, responding to simulated mass casualty events, simultaneously responding to emergency delivery requests from three different locations, and delivering 150lbs of cargo in under three hours.
“We hope to continue working with the Department of Defense to help actively train military personal on the best ways to use this technology as we prepare for the day it may be sent to the front lines to help save lives,” Rinaudo said.
How The Service Works
Zipline is dedicated to expanding healthcare access and saving lives. In Zipline’s civilian work, health workers place orders by text message and receive their deliveries in 30 minutes on average. The drones both take off from and land at Zipline’s distribution centers, requiring no additional infrastructure at the clinics they serve.
The drones fly autonomously and can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, flying up to 90 miles an hour, and have a round trip range of 100 miles—even in high winds and rain. Each Zipline distribution center can deliver to an area of more than 8,000 square miles serving populations of up to 12 million people. Deliveries are made from the sky, with the drone descending to a safe height above the ground and releasing a box of medicine by parachute to a designated spot at the health centers it serves.
Zipline’s Record To Date
Zipline’s autonomous drones have flown more than a million miles, made tens of thousands of on-demand medical deliveries, and helped to save thousands of lives in emergencies. Since launching in October of 2016 to deliver blood to 21 hospitals Rwanda, Zipline has expanded its service nationwide, putting most of the country’s 12 million citizens within minutes of a life-saving delivery of hundreds of medical products at 450 facilities.
In April of 2019, Zipline partnered with the Government of Ghana to launch the first of four distribution centers that will serve 2,000 health facilities and a population of 12 million people across the country. And in September of 2019, Zipline announced that it will expand its service to India as a part of a government initiative to put 120 million people within range of instant medical delivery by drone.
Zipline’s Global Expansion in 2019 and Beyond
Zipline’s commercial partnerships in India, 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, including the United States. Zipline is working with the U.S. state of North Carolina to launch its medical drone delivery capability as a part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s competitive UAS Integration Pilot Program.
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 life-saving medicine to the world’s most challenging 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, Katalyst Ventures, Temasek, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, and Stanford University.
Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) accelerates the adoption of commercial technology and methodologies into the U.S. military to strengthen our nation’s security. With offices in Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, and the Pentagon, DIU connects the Department of Defense customers with leading technology companies to prototype and transition of commercial solutions into the field within 12 to 24 months. Learn more at www.diu.mil.
Naval Medical Research Center’s (NMRC) Naval Advanced Medical Development (NAMD) is the premier developer of innovative medical materiel and knowledge products that enable readiness, survivability, and resilience for the Department of the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.
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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