Los Angeles-based A2Z Drone Delivery on Monday introduced a new cargo drone and delivery system that it says will provide the largest payload of any tethered delivery system on the market.
Often, drones use tethers or winches to lower packages to the ground from altitude. Making deliveries from up high is an attractive proposition for many drone firms, as it makes it less likely that they will need to contend with regulations around noise and privacy. Companies that use a tethered system include Flytrex, Elistair and Alphabet drone delivery arm Wing.
A2Z refers to the new system as its second-generation Rapid Delivery System, or RDS2. It provides the foundation for tethered delivery in the form of a chassis, winch, tether and hook.
The winch is powered by a heavy-duty motor that allows the system to handle payloads of up to 22 pounds, greater than any tethered drone service on the market. The tether itself is made of braided Kevlar that allows for around 800 deliveries between replacements. A pending patent would add an auto-release mechanism to the hook.
“The RDS2 has completed over 2,000 test deliveries and is already deployed with six of our beta test partners, which have tested the platform in a diverse array of applications,” said Evan Hertafeld, chief technology officer of A2Z. “Consistency and reliability are the name of the game and this testing has reinforced the effectiveness of our hardware.”
The RDS2 is also factory integrated with the RDST, A2Z’s new cargo drone. The aircraft can fly up to 9 miles round trip from a central distribution hub, and it can even retrieve payloads of up to 11 pounds while hovering from a safe distance.
Unlike other delivery drones that rely on packaging purpose-built for the aircraft, the RDST does not require specialty boxes. Rather, it’s designed as an “off-the-shelf” solution, compatible with any retailer’s packaging so long as it fits within the drone’s 2.6-cubic-foot cargo hold.
Crucially, the chassis of the RDS2 “can be easily tucked into the belly of any heavy-lift drone.” That means the system can be integrated with the RDST and/or delivery drones from other firms.
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“Most drone delivery systems in deployment today require payloads to be packaged in special boxes, pouches or on-board payload compartments. The RDS2 is designed to meet what every shipper wants, using what every shipper has,” said Aaron Zhang, founder and CEO of A2Z. “The RDS2 can auto-release the shipper’s own boxes, removing the need for a recipient on the ground to meet the drone, and retrieve packages without landing.”
The company noted the RDS2 and RDST were designed with residential drone delivery in mind. But it added that both are also ideal for deliveries of medical supplies or life-saving equipment for search-and-rescue operations.
Outside of logistics, current A2Z customers are using the company’s hardware to transport tools and samples between mining operations and deliver urgent supplies and port documents from shore to ship.
The previous iteration of A2Z’s Rapid Delivery System, the RDS1, has been used to deliver Coca-Cola products to residents of Coffee County, Georgia, and it was the drone of choice for an ongoing delivery partnership between Walmart and another drone firm, DroneUp.
The RDS1 also includes the RDSX drone, which has a unique “double drop” mechanism that allows it to deliver two separate payloads in one trip. Each package can weigh up to 4.4 pounds and be carried a distance of just over 11 miles round trip. Keeping to a single package extends the system’s range to 18.6 miles.