Drone delivery has been discussed for years. Most imagine Amazon will be the first to employ them in their distribution centers, but few realize the technology is currently being used for a much broader purpose in the poor world. Poor infrastructure prevents almost two billion people from getting blood and immunizations.
Rwanda As Exemple.
Rwanda has 14,000 kilometers of highways, however only 2,600 are paved. The rest are rough dirt roads that are nearly impassable during the rainy season. Medical supplies are needed immediately. A mother bleeding out during childbirth cannot wait 3 hours for blood. putting rural villagers at risk.
Zipline uses autonomous drones to overcome this challenge. Each can carry 1.6 kg of medical supplies—three 500 millilitre blood bags. Zipline’s design philosophy inspired these wonderful small drones’ nerdy engineering. Numerous distinct considerations affected their designs. First is plane takeoff speed. Zipline wants to have the drone in the air as soon as feasible after an order. In an emergency, seconds matter. Order to launch averages 5 minutes. Orders take that long to debut at their on-site pharmacy. Some would struggle to get a drone out of its case and flying in that time, but Zipline has found fantastic ways to minimize those seconds. Zipline’s autonomous planes, like DJI Drones, need a GPS link to fly. If you have flown a drone, you know it might take a bit to power up and connect to a GPS satellite. Zipline relocated the GPS electronics from the plane to the batteries to eliminate that delay. Always on and connected. This innovation alone cut launch time by 10-15 minutes. Four plane parts must be completed before flying, including the battery. First, the fuselage’s drop hatch is put on the launcher, then the wings, then the battery. This modular construction makes the plane easy to handle and lift into place. Most crucially, it isolates components so that if the wings fail the pre-flight examination, they may be replaced without reassembling.
Zipline provides unique ways to speed your pre-flight tests.
Launcher-connected mobile apps check flight surfaces. Launch technicians point their phones at QR codes on each control surface to tell the plane to activate it. The phone then uses a computer vision algorithm to grade each control surface. After assembling the plane on the launcher, the next saving procedure begins. A pulley and electric motor accelerate the drone safely on the rail. accelerating the plane to 100 km/h in 0.3 seconds.
It launches consistently and overcomes hurdles. Flights are hardest during takeoff and landing. The plane dumps supplies in a disposable insulated cardboard box with a parachute to prevent landing. The distribution center accepts clinics without infrastructure. The technique to land the plane without a pilot is even more amazing.
A little hook on the tail boom grabs a wire between two operated arms on either side of the capturing mechanism. In slo-mo, the arms rise to capture the hook. The plane communicates its 3D location with the radio receivers close to the platform, keeping the wire out of the way until the last moment. Avoiding wire collisions.
The capture system misses 10% of the time, but the plane is designed to throttle up and make another pass. An previous method included a retractable tail hook that hooked an activated wire closer to the ground, slowing the jet enough to land softly on an inflated cushion. Its design was flawed. The workers had to crawl through the inflatable and raise a large plane when it rained. The plane was water-resistant.
Not ergonomic or pleasant. The retractable tail boom’s motor may fail and increased weight compared to the present plane’s metal hook on the carbon fiber tail boom.
Zipline’s innovations include safety into autonomous drone networks. For safety, zipline uses redundancy. Everything’s duplicated. Two motors for one flight. Two of every actuator, and if two fail, the plane automatically deploys a parachute.
letting it gently land. If ordered by airspace authority, the control tower can start this operation. Since starting operations in October 2016, Zipline has had zero injuries due to its safety priority.
Another aeronautical design element. range and aircraft weight. Quadcopters are too sluggish and require too much energy to fly, thus Zipline employs aircraft. These planes can serve an 80 km radius around this area at 100 km/h.
The inner skeleton is mostly carbon fiber composites coated in a lightweight foam covering that is easy and cheap to repair. The fuselage weights 6.4 kilos. Wings weigh 2 kg and span 3 meters.
A high-strength carbon fiber composite makes the structurally integrated wing spar, which runs along a wing. High-density polystyrene and 3D-printed plastics produce aerodynamic surfaces.
At 10 kg, the batteries are the aircraft’s heaviest section. Zipline used 1.25-kwh lithium-ion batteries.
Teslas have 120 kWhs, whereas Nissan Leafs have 24. These detachable portions aren’t batteries, as claimed. They save flight data from all sensors and have GPS electronics. Data enters Zipline’s server when the battery is charged at this station. Drones create 1 gigabit per hour. Zipline’s best feature is this.
Drones encounter engineering and regulatory issues. A massive autonomous drone network in the busy and highly controlled US skies would be tough. Rwanda is a good cause and a useful test environment for integrating an autonomous drone network into air traffic management. Zipline connects directly with Rwanda’s central air traffic control in Kigali Airport, the capital. I value this test bed more than Zipline’s hardware technology. When we arrived, Ziplines co-founder Ryan Oksenhorn gave us a tour. Zipline’s director of software has worked hard to make Zipline’s autonomous drone control technology the finest.
Ryan’s patents include many concepts for automated drone management systems, such as Patent 9997080 “Decentralised air traffic management system for unmanned aerial vehicles,” which specifies software to help many UAVs avoid collisions in their airspace. This testbed and data will allow Zipline to continue developing ideas and concepts to optimize drone delivery network control and extend into busier airspaces.
They’re establishing an east Rwanda location this month. This may become a supply network, allowing drones to bounce between sites, switch batteries in minutes, and continue their journey. This technology benefits all nations. It might aid disaster relief when highways are flooded. It centralizes supply. Hospitals typically carry too many medical supplies. Stocking short-lived medicinal supplies wastes them. Expensive taxpayer waste. Zipline might solve this by centralizing emergency supplies for fast delivery. These drones might reduce human exposure to contagious pathogens during quarantines, preventing disease spread.