NASA Zipline Pursue m:N Drone Ops

NASA recently signed a Space Act Agreement with San Francisco-based Zipline “to pursue a future vision of US aviation that includes delivery drones and air taxis,” says the NASA announcement.

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The agreement will help NASA to explore the concept of one pilot operating multiple drones, which they refer to as m:N operations. In order for commercial drone operations like widescale delivery or security to scale economically, the industry must be able to move away from the concept of one pilot per aircraft. NASA is working with the aviation and drone industry to understand both the applications and the processes for these operations.

“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 US aviation.”

Zipline is an ideal partner for the project. The Zipline “instant logistics” model, which was among the first medical drone delivery operations to scale in Africa, uses m:N operations in the US, Japan, Ghana, and Rwanda.

“Through this partnership, NASA will use Zipline’s experience to find solutions for broadly implementing m:N operations in the US airspace. In return, Zipline can leverage NASA’s tools and research to determine what is needed to expand its fleet operations in the United States,” says the NASA announcement.

“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 US and abroad.”

NASA has also formed an m:N working group, which Zipline will participate in. The working group is designed to bring industry and government together to collaborate on complex use cases.

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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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