Zipline Unveils First Onboard, Acoustic Detection & Avoidance System for Autonomous Drones

Zipline unveiled its new Detection and Avoidance (DAA) system. A first for the industry, the new system uses onboard acoustic-based technology to enable safe and autonomous flights in complex, and even uncontrolled airspaces. This technology marks a significant step forward in realizing commercial autonomous deliveries at scale. 

Zipline’s new DAA system relies on a series of small, lightweight acoustic microphones and onboard processors to navigate airspace and provide 360-degree awareness with a range up to 2,000 meters. Using this onboard system, aircraft can autonomously monitor for other aircraft in real-time, and adapt to changes in their flight path.

“Our DAA system is the holy grail for drone technology,” said Keenan Wyrobek, co-founder and CTO of Zipline. “We’ve created a system that is agile enough to operate with the finest of margins, and can think for itself and adjust in real-time. DAA is the result of years of development and hundreds of thousands of flight hours. It’s an elegant answer to the challenges of flying beyond the visual line of sight in the United States not in 10 years–but today.”

Existing detection and avoidance technologies rely on bulky or ground-based systems for optical or electromagnetic awareness which are not optimal for scaling small, long-range drone operations. Zipline’s acoustic-based system combines the lightweight, affordable hardware needed for autonomous drones with the precision mandated by regulators for complex airspace. 

“We imagine a world where physical products are delivered as quickly and as easily as a text message. DAA is the linchpin of scaling instant delivery in the United States and globally,” said Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO at Zipline. “We envision a future in which this system becomes the industry standard for all commercial autonomous aircraft to fly safely.”

The hardware has already been built into Zipline’s drones and is ready to be activated for use in many regions upon regulatory approval. 

The unveiling of DAA comes over five years after Zipline launched its first commercial operations. The company now completes a delivery every four minutes and has eclipsed 300,000 commercial flights. DAA is the next step in advancing its industry leadership and making the promise of instant logistics a reality worldwide.