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At last month’s Commercial UAV Expo, A2Z Drone Delivery set up a demonstration of their delivery winch system – showing just how easy it is to attach a box, or a stack of pizza boxes, to the winch for delivery or for return. DRONELIFE spoke with A2Z CEO Aaron Zhang.
Aaron Zhang’s first drone delivery project was on the Brown University campus, delivering a high theft item – cookies – to students. The CEO of A2Z Drone Delivery explains that his first product concept of a drone delivery winch came from a deep sea fishing trip. “You lower a line to hook a fish – or you lower a line to deliver or pick something up,” he says. “Our first prototype was literally a very simple 3D printed winch – just high enough to keep the cookies out of reach.”
“I’ve always been into robotics,” says Zhang. A brief stint working for the world’s biggest drone manufacturer, DJI, “Opened up a lot of possibilities of what drones can do for us,” said Zhang.
From delivering cookies on campus just a few years ago, A2Z’s products are now part of drone delivery for one of the world’s biggest retailers, Walmart, through drone services company DroneUp. “We began working together in early 2020, when they were delivering PCR test kits with an Inspire and a fixed line,” says Zhang. “We had a specially built winch, so it was a very natural match. It’s been a huge catalyst for us to improve our products and understand how a real user interacts with our product.”
Retail, however, is only one of the sectors rapidly adopting drone delivery. “Residential delivery is what people first think of when they think of drone delivery,” says Zhang. “But in fact, we have more and more ship-to-shore applications right now. Anything high value and time sensitive is a great application for drone delivery.
“We also have some intersite transport projects at large logistics companies moving high value, time sensitive parts. Where any downtime costs a lot, it makes a lot of sense for drone delivery to replace a driver: and in a finite area, it really makes sense.”
Those new applications inform the product development, says Zhang. “We like putting our eggs in different baskets right now, because it’s important to us to understand how different use cases will benefit. At core, our philosophy is about consumer protection – keeping the drone away from the consumer. Flying lower may be better for performance, but we think staying closer to cruising altitude is better: huge blades are dangerous.”
“Going forward, we’re always working on automating more and more of the process. Now we can take off, fly, deliver, and land autonomously. As we move forward, we’re hoping to eliminate more and more of the tasks that pilots need to do. “
Drone Delivery: Now and Tomorrow
The last few years have been seen a dramatic change in the drone industry. “COVID absolutely gave our industry a huge push – labor shortages, supply chain – we have a lot of COVID related customers,” says Zhang. Not only could drones deliver a lot of COVID tests at once, maintaining the correct temperature range, but consumer acceptance of drone delivery grew. “COVID forced people to accept new things in their lives. People were downloading new delivery apps all the time,” he points out.
This year, A2Z is seeing a trend in the defense sector. “In the beginning we were hesitant about the defense sector,” says Zhang. “But delivering medical kits to troops on the ground is a great application. Delivering time sensitive, high value items is our mission. “
Right now, customer demand for A2Z’s drone delivery winch and drone delivery platform is driving growth. “We’re looking to scale our team: at the moment, keeping up with customer demand is like running up an escalator. We’re completely bootstrapped – and that forces us to be very close to our customers. We’re just focused on making the best possible product. Designed, built, and supported in US.”
“This is the closest thing to an off-the-shelf ready to deliver drone on the market,” says Zhang. “We want to give everyone access to this. We give you a recipe to execute business plans – and it’s really interesting to see how different industries use it. Sometimes people use drone delivery technology in a way that we didn’t think about, and that pushes our boundaries. At the end of the day, we’re very people focused. Making drone delivery work for people is our goal.”
“We’re pretty excited about our upcoming road map – it’s a very fun space to be in,” says Zhang.
Read more about A2Z Drone Delivery:
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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