Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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AIR DELIVERY SERVICES 58 unmanned systems inside   August/September 2017 An advanced autopilot and GPS navigation help the Zip keep to a predetermined route. A Zipline controller at the base monitors the drone's progress and stays in radio contact with Rwandan civil and military aviation au- thorities in case the Zip needs to change course or hold position. On a full charge, a Zip can make a 150-kilo- meter round-trip, carrying about 1.5 kilograms per f light. They can operate 24-7 in all weath- er. "What's really typical is that operators will think it's a beautiful day, all of our weather data sources in the area think that there is no rain, and the plane will come back soaking," Wyrobek said. When the Zip is five minutes away from its destination, the health workers will get a text message letting them know they will soon re- ceive their package. The Zip then gently drops off the supplies via a paper parachute onto a designated area the size of a few parking spaces. Finally, the Zip returns to base, where it uses a tailhook to catch onto a cable on the ground and then land onto an inf lated mat. "We call this 'aircraft carrier meets bouncy castle,'" Wyrobek said. "Rough landings are bad for the lives of planes." The cable that catches the Zip's tailhook is mounted on two adjustable robotic arms that move to help catch the plane as it lands. "We discovered that when the wire could move, it reduced the need for unsuccessful landing at- tempts," Hamilton said. Each Zip has redundant electric motors, batteries, GPS and other electronics, as well as an emergency parachute landing system. This is because the Zips are not f lying "in the middle of nowhere," Wyrobek said. "These are pretty populated areas. They're not urban, but there's a lot of people there, especially around the delivery sites." Delivering medical supplies quickly when health workers need them "lets less medical supplies go to waste," Hamilton said. "A huge amount of medicine spoils because it doesn't get used. Instead of people guesstimating and projecting what they might need, in-time de- livery helps people get what they need when Photo courtesy of Zipline. A Zip drone drops off a package equipped with a paper parachute.

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