Zipline to work with NASA
It usually is the case that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the consultant of last resort when it comes to most things aviation.
That’s presumably because NASA is full of smart people who are always coming up with solutions for the world’s space and aviation problems, while everybody else is just seated, twiddling their thumbs wondering what the smart folks at NASA are gonna do.
Well… except that one time in Bruce Willis’ Armageddon when all those brainiacs at the smartest institution in the world suffered a fade and they had to be saved by an oil driller.
Yea. That happened.
And it looks like it is going to happen again.
The Washington DC-based space exploration and aeronautics research agency is dreaming of a future where they are involved in aviation that includes delivery drones and air taxis.
Against this background, NASA has signed a Space Act Agreement with San Francisco-based drone logistics company Zipline, who they believe will set them on the right path.
“To fully realise this vision, NASA researchers are developing tools and techniques to enable m:N operations – where a small number of humans (m) effectively manage many autonomous vehicles (N),” the organisation said in a statement.
“This research includes close coordination with the aviation community to understand industry and public needs for these types of operations.
“Zipline, an instant logistics company that makes deliveries via drone, currently uses m:N operations to transport medical supplies and consumer goods in Northwest Arkansas, Japan, Ghana, and Rwanda. Zipline wants to continue to give back to the aviation community by sharing its lessons learned.”
NASA added that it was therefore going to tap into Zipline’s experience to find solutions for broadly implementing m:N operations in the US airspace, while Zipline can leverage NASA’s tools and research to determine what is needed to expand its fleet operations in return.
“These collaborations are quite important,” said Kelley Hashemi, the technical lead for autonomous systems at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. “It’s critical for NASA to gather the community’s input in order to achieve meaningful progress towards this future vision of U.S. aviation.”
Zipline is already involved in NASA’s m:N working group – a collaboration among government, industry, and academia to identify and reduce m:N operation barriers. The working group considers a variety of use cases and addresses barriers such as technical, regulatory, safety assurance, and community acceptance.
It is hoped that the collaboration will advance the scalability of future airspace operations in the US by laying the groundwork for a new operational paradigm.
“Public-private cooperation is essential to expanding drone delivery and unlocking its benefits for more people,” said Conor French, general counsel of Zipline. “This partnership is an important step in that direction. We’re excited to work with NASA to accelerate growth in drone delivery, both in the U.S. and abroad.”