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Novel Drone Delivery System Unveiled

Flight operator Josephine Fianu checks over a Zipline drone before sending it out for a delivery from the Omenako drone center, in Ghana. (S. Knott/VOA)

SAN FRANCISCO - Drone maker Zipline on March 15 introduced a new model that works with a small robot to deliver packages with precision in dense cities, even on windy days.

Zipline said the Government of Rwanda will use the service for "last kilometer" deliveries to homes, hotels and health facilities in Kigali and elsewhere in the country.

"It's an opportunity for us to really precisely make deliveries, even in high winds," Zipline head of engineering Joseph Mardall told AFP.

The tech firm based in the city of South San Francisco said its product provides quiet, fast delivery to homes in cities as well as suburbs.

An electric-powered drone flies along more than 100 meters above the ground to its destination, then releases a "delivery droid" to take packages the final distance.

The droid maneuvers down a tether, dropping off packages in locations as small as a patio table or a front stoop, the company said.

The system is designed to be nearly silent, sounding like wind rustling leaves, and can deliver a package more than 15 kilometers away in about 10 minutes, according to its creators.

Each new generation "Zip" drone carries a payload weighing from three to four kilograms, according to the company.

Zipline plans to conduct thousands of flight tests this year, then deploy the system to its first customer shortly after that.