In order to be able to evade independently, Zipline drones will be equipped with microphones that can detect other air traffic within a radius of 2 km. According to the company, the acoustic detect-and-avoid (DAA) system is the key to the large-scale operation of commercial drone delivery services in complex and uncontrolled airspace worldwide.
360º awareness for Zipline drones
Zipline's new DAA system is based on a suite of small, lightweight acoustic microphones and signal processors that provide 360º awareness of the environment during flight, at a range of up to 2,000 meters. The system ensures that drones autonomously take other aircraft into account in real-time, and reroute if necessary if there is a threat of conflict. Clouds and fog are no obstacle.
“Our DAA system is the holy grail of Drone Technology,” said Keenan Wyrobek, co-founder and CTO of Zipline. “We have created a system that is agile enough to work within the tightest margins, and can think and react in real-time. DAA is the result of years of development and hundreds of thousands of flying hours. It is an elegant response to the challenges of flying out of sight in the United States, not 10 years from now, but today.”
An industry standard
According to Wyrobek, existing detect-and-avoid systems rely on bulky or ground-based optical or radar systems and are therefore less suitable for scaling up long-haul flights with small drones. Zipline's acoustic system combines lightweight, affordable hardware with the precision required by regulators for operating in complex airspace.
“We envision a world where physical products are delivered as quickly and easily as a text message. DAA is the linchpin in scaling instant delivery in the United States and globally,” said Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO of Zipline. “We envision a future where this system becomes the industry standard for all commercial autonomous drones to fly safely.”
300,000+ flights performed
The hardware is already built into Zipline drones and will be deployed in many regions after regulatory approval. The DAA unveiling comes more than five years after Zipline launched its first commercial operation. The company now completes a delivery every four minutes and has operated more than 300,000 commercial flights, transporting more than 5 million vaccines and other medical supplies.
Incidentally, Zipline is not the only party experimenting with acoustic DAA systems to support BVLOS drone flights. The American company SARA offers a comparable solution under the name Pancas.
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