Meet Zing Drones. This Florida drone delivery start-up plans to offer Uber-like deliveries.
By Jim Magill
Everyone knows delivery services like Door Dash and Uber Eats, which enable consumers to order food deliveries via the app on their smartphone. Now, a small Florida start-up is hoping to offer the same service nationwide, with delivery via drone.
Zing Drones is preparing to train prospective Part 107 pilots in the use of the company’s winch technology, which is designed for use on DJI Inspire 2 drones. Initially, Zing will employ its own pilots to fly company-owned drones with the ultimate goal of attracting private drone pilots to act as independent contractors and use their own drones for the supplies, said Ian Annase, founder and CEO of Zing Drones.
Annase said the company plans to hire a regional flight manager sometime next year to begin the training process. As the company expands its operations to various US cities, additional flight managers would be hired.
“We want the pilots to complete training with Zing before they fly with us to make sure they know how to operate the winch,” he said. “The pilots, if they have an Inspire 2 – this is our first home delivery drone – we could attach our hardware to it.”
After training, these pilots would then fly according to fixed schedules set by the flight controller in their respective area.
Financing a start-up for drone deliveries
The company, which plans to start commercial deliveries next year, is currently generating revenue from the sale of its drone kits, including the winch hardware and drone. “We linked the ordering app in Stripe,” said Annase. “We did a couple of demos in the US to show what the platform can do.”
Zing raised $ 75,000 in a pre-seed funding round last year and is currently raising equity with a crowdfunding campaign via an online fundraising site, a common strategy used by other drone start-ups. Annase said the company hopes to raise $ 100,000 through this method.
“Once we hit $ 100,000 we should start ramping up,” he said. The company’s ultimate goal is to raise $ 750,000 in equity.
Zing has made several test deliveries under Part 107 of the FAA, which allows a drone pilot to fly over a body of water while maintaining a line of sight to the location with the aircraft. In one such test, conducted in New Orleans, a pilot flew a payload of fritters over the Mississippi. The company plans to begin shipping Part 107 in the small Tampa Bay community of Tierra Verde within the next month or two.
The next step for the drone delivery start-up is to earn Category 3 certification from the FAA, which would allow its pilots to fly over humans to find deliveries in suburbs within a one-mile radius of the starting point of the flight to carry out, said Anna.
“Right now we’re very limited on Part 107, which is very location-based,” he said.
Zing’s ultimate goal is to obtain the right to drone parcel delivery through FAA Part 135 aviation certification, “the only way small drones can move someone else’s property out of line of sight for compensation,” according to the website the FAA.
Once Zing receives the green light for Part 135 commercial drone deliveries, customers have two options for ordering their drone-delivered meals: by placing their order using the Zing ordering app, available on the App Store; or they call any restaurant that offers drone delivery as an option.
“Either way, it will be loaded into our system and as soon as the order is ready to be picked up, the pilot would take off from his fixed location and go to the restaurant,” said Annase. As soon as the drone hovers over the restaurant, the pilot deploys the winch device to lower a hook on an employee in the restaurant who would attach the delivery order.
The pilot will then use the winch to bring the food to the drone to fly to the waiting customer. As soon as it has reached its intended destination, the package is lowered again with the winch.
“The hook works in such a way that it automatically falls off the package under the force of gravity. Nobody has to be there to receive it, ”said Annase. He said the delivered products could be dropped off in the customer’s yard or directly into a smart mailbox system. Zing is currently working with two smart mailbox companies to set up their systems in neighborhoods where the company wants to initiate its direct deliveries.
The drone then returns to its home base, where the pilot changes the drone’s battery to prepare it for the next delivery.
Zing’s patent-pending winch system is designed to be attached to existing drones. “The one we developed for the Inspire 2 will be a universal platform,” said Annase. With an adapter plate, the winch can be mounted on any similarly sized drone.
As designed, the winch can lift a payload of approximately 5 pounds, but can be customized to accommodate heavier payloads. “We can adjust the torque,” he said. “It’s a compromise. We can lift more weight with it. It depends on the use case and how quickly you need it [the payload] be dropped off; be discontinued; be deducted; be dismissed.
While Zing plans to start delivery operations in his home state of Florida, the company hopes to eventually expand its business model to cities in the United States. “We did demos with this platform in Ontario, California; Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami and St. Petersburg, ”said Annase.
Read more about drone delivery: medical drone delivery, Walmart drone delivery, the Google Wing delivery program, and the deep dive into last mile delivery under Part 107.
Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with nearly a quarter of a century of experience relating to technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring as Senior Editor at S&P Global Platts in December 2019, Jim began writing about new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots, and drones and their contribution to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has been featured in the Houston Chronicle, US News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International publication.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional marketplace for drone services, and a passionate observer of the emerging drone industry and regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles on the commercial drone field and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for emerging technologies.
For advice or writing on the drone industry, email Miriam.
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