The California-based startup’s new machine takes to the skies just as the US is about to loosen rules governing drone operations.

Credit : Zipline

A couple of years ago, Zipline created a national drone delivery system to ship blood and drugs to remote medical centers in Rwanda. Now it has developed what it claims is the world’s swiftest commercial delivery drone, with a top speed of 128 kilometers an hour (a hair shy of 80 miles per hour).

Zipline is hoping its new fixed-wing aerial robot, which is both speedier and easier to maintain than its predecessor, will help it win business in an industry that’s attracted plenty of big players. They include Amazon, which has been testing its Prime Air drone delivery service for years in the UK and elsewhere, and Project Wing, part of Alphabet’s secretive X lab, which is using its drones to deliver pharmaceuticals and burritos in a pilot project in Australia.

Soon these and other companies will be able to experiment more in America, too. Next month, the US government is expected to green-light a number of agreements between private drone operators and states and local entities that want to test drone services involving “beyond-line-of-sight operations,” which means drones can no longer be seen from the ground by a human minder.

 

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