The first deliveries featured cans of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) with Coffee delivered to residents of Coffee County, Georgia. DroneUp managed the flights using A2Z’s Rapid Delivery System (RDS1). Walmart (NYSE: WMT) helped facilitate the deliveries.
The RDS1 features a tether that drops packages to their destination, reducing what DroneUp calls “time-on-station” to just 30 seconds. Time-on-station is the amount of time the drone spends flying in a given area, in this case the delivery zone.
“For our partners at DroneUp to put their trust in our system was the best proof of concept that we could imagine and was a memorable benchmark for our whole team,” said Aaron Zhang, founder of A2Z Drone Delivery. “The unique capabilities of the RDS1 were tailor-made for this type of residential delivery where our tethered freefall mechanism can accurately and quickly deposit payloads while hovering far from people, homes, trees and utility wires.”
The RDS1, which was launched in October 2020 and is now commercially available, allows for a package weighing up to 4.4 pounds to be dropped via a tether at a height of up to 150 feet. The drone’s delivery mechanism controls the payload’s descent and speed. The drone has a range of 2.17 miles.
According to A2Z, the ability to deliver a payload from cruising altitude eliminates dangers associated with the drone’s propellers while reducing noise.
“Our rapid delivery system is ideal for situations where a drone cannot safely approach close proximity to its delivery location such as delivering radios or medical supplies to a search-and-rescue team in a forest or as a more efficient option to deliver and retrieve port documents from awaiting cargo ships,” said Zhang. “While other drone delivery platforms are designed to hover close to the ground, our tethered free-fall delivery technique enables efficient and accurate placement without the UAV approaching people, structures or other obstructions like trees and wires.”
The RDS1 features a payload status detection system, preflight weight check, rapid descent calculations to ensure the payload is dropped safely, manual delivery controls that allow pilots to control the payload and its retrieval, emergency payload abandonment that allows for the release of payload in emergency situations and a passive payload lock to protect against unwanted payload release.
DroneUp offers complete flight services for drone operators, including flight services, data analysis, drone program development, regulatory consulting, training, equipment and personnel.
“No matter how many flight hours you have as a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) pilot, adding the dynamic of delivering packages to the ground is still a new concept, so having the tether controls seamlessly integrated into the pilot software is imperative,” said DroneUp pilot Ethan Burnette, who flew delivery missions with the RDS1. “Also, knowing the redundant safety systems are in place gives you the added peace of mind you need as you become accustomed to flying a drone with a payload slung below it.”
Drone delivery tests ramp up
A2Z and DroneUp are the latest to announce drone delivery tests, which are rapidly scaling. GoFor Industries and Aurora Aerial are testing drone delivery in Canada before rolling it out to other markets, including those in the United States. Drone provider AgEagle partnered with Valqari, a Chicago-based startup that is building a drone delivery “mailbox” that allows drones to deliver packages directly into a safe and secure box. The companies demonstrated their combined solution at Sun City. A drone picked up a package with beverages at the Valqari Drone Delivery Station outside the clubhouse restaurant and delivered that package to a second delivery station located on the course.
Israeli drone company Flytrex has been testing drone delivery in North Carolina, delivering items from restaurants in the Holly Springs Towne Center to a pickup location within a five-minute drone flight. Starbucks, Dairy Queen Blizzards, pastries and light meals are among the menu items.