Which startups are leading the movement toward drone deliveries?
By Paige Cerulli — DAV Editor
Imagine that you order an item online, and an hour later it’s dropped off at your door. Drone deliveries can make this scenario a reality, and thanks to the work of startups, that’s likely to be the case sooner than later.
There’s no ignoring that automated drone delivery has the potential to transform multiple industries, from the medical to the consumer to the food and beverage sectors. Not only can drones ensure near instantaneous delivery of goods, but at an estimated delivery cost of just $0.05 per mile, they could reduce high shipping costs and increase consumer spending.
But drone deliveries, especially those in busy cities, pose challenges, too. From the uncertainty of a blind landing in an unknown environment to potential safety concerns, technology must be created to meet the demands of automated delivery.
Many startups have stepped up to the challenge of developing this technology, and some are even leading the movement toward drone deliveries.
DAV Alliance Member Startups
At the DAV Foundation, we’re pleased to have three such startups among our Alliance Members.
Drone Terminus is tackling the issue of receiving landing site data that would enable safe drone deliveries. Founded in 2016, this cutting-edge startup focuses on facilitating endpoint delivery with its custom sensor array paired with a machine learning algorithm. The result? Technology that can gather, analyze, and communicate real-time landing site data. This valuable technology enables safer drone deliveries by reducing the potential for personal injury and property damage, even when landing a drone while blind to the landing environment.
Scorpiox Technologies provides last-minute and last meter logistics specifically for drones operating in urban areas. This startup has created the Air Matrix, a collection of invisible autonomous highways in the sky. The Air Matrix allows service providers to operate 260 drones on autonomous missions with precision. With Air Matrix being sold to worldwide drone service providers in locations including the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Israel, and more, Scorpiox Technologies helps to facilitate drones as a service in a safe, efficient, and scalable fashion.
BLKTATU focuses on city drone deliveries and the unique challenges of delivering within an urban area. This startup has built a drone delivery system that allows drones to access high rise buildings and other hard-to-reach places. With BLKTAU’s delivery hardware, drones can make deliveries to residences that don’t have yards, increasing the versatility and potential of any drone delivery system. This delivery platform helps to solve the last mile problem for logistics companies, worldwide.
Additional Startups Focused on Drone Deliveries
Plenty of other startups are working toward making automated drone delivery a reality, too. One such startup is Matternet, which is funded by the Boeing Company and Mercedes-Benz Vans. Matternet’s on-demand drone delivery technology platform helps healthcare, e-commerce, and logistics organizations to execute automated drone deliveries. In March of 2017, Matternet became the first company ever fully authorized to operate drone logistics networks over urban areas in Switzerland. Matternet was also chosen to execute drone logistics operations for US hospitals in May of 2018.
Zipline is another startup that’s already making a significant impact on our transportation and delivery industry. This startup focuses on helping the two billion people in rural areas who lack access to essential medical products, like vaccines and blood. In October of 2016, the company launched the world’s first drone delivery system that operates at a national scale, delivering blood products to 21 transfusion facilities in Rwanda. The drone deliveries cut product delivery times down from hours to just 30 minutes, and Zipline plans to continue to expand their technology to create an “instant delivery system for the planet.”
Zipline’s entire delivery process has been designed with efficiency in mind and demonstrates how drones don’t just provide convenience, but can save lives. Zipline stores medical products at the Zipline Distribution Center. Medical workers at clinics and hospitals text orders for products, and the items are packed up within minutes. The Zipline drones can guide themselves to their destinations, with humans being able to intervene if needed. However, in 7,000 flights, no human intervention has been necessary. The drones deliver the items via parachute and can access clinics in remote areas with infrastructure that would stop or delay delivery by vehicle.
Drone startup Project Wing has also successfully completed various deliveries. The team used a drone to deliver a first-aid kit, candy bars, dog treats, and water to farmers in rural Queensland, Australia in 2014. Their second delivery was performed in September of 2016, when a drone carried burritos to Virginia Tech students. At the time, the flight was the largest and long drone delivery to be tested in the United States. Currently, Project Wing focuses on how to refine the delivery drones to make deliveries to suburban yards, finding the best route to a home and the best delivery location within the yard.
Supporting the Future of Drone Deliveries
The DAV Foundation is working to build a decentralized infrastructure to support the drone delivery industry. Because anyone can integrate their own autonomous drones on the network, our technology will allow drones to communicate with each other and with service providers for deliveries, charging, and maintenance. Our technology can complement the work done by these startups, improving the safety and efficiency of drone deliveries nationwide.