Zipline's new drone delivery platform attracts more US customers

Drone delivery startup Zipline is expanding its U.S. customer base across healthcare, restaurant and retail verticals.

Global health and wellness brand GNC, Seattle-based pizza restaurant Pagliacci Pizza and medical courier service Associated Couriers will all start using Zipline's recently announced home delivery platform, which the startup says is ultra precise, nearly inaudible and up to seven times as fast as traditional delivery via car.

The platform includes a new drone model, a more accurate drop method and docking and charging hardware that can be attached to any building or set up as a freestanding structure for customers to use.

The new drone, the P2, has an eight-pound payload and a 10-mile service radius, and it can take off and land vertically. Rather than dropping a parcel with a parachute from the sky, the P2 includes a new droid, a vessel about the size of a small duffle bag, that maneuvers down a tether from the drone, steers to the target location and empties the contents before being zipped back up. This update has allowed Zipline to narrow its drop zone target to within two feet, the company says.

GNC's stores in Salt Lake City will begin offering Zipline delivery later this year using the startup's earlier drone platform, thhe P1. GNC will deploy P2 drones in other parts of the country next year, according to Zipline.

Pagliacci Pizza and Zipline worked together to build a new custom-designed pizza box. Each droid will be able to fit two 13-inch pizzas and side dishes to be delivered to customers during busy lunch and dinner rushes throughout the greater Seattle area. Associated Couriers will initially target long-term healthcare facilities on Long Island, New York, but the company plans to expand the service throughout the U.S. and even internationally, according to Zipline.

GNC, Pagliacci and Associated Couriers join a growing list of promised Zipline customers. In March, Zipline said Sweetgreen, Michigan Medicine, MultiCare Health Systems, Intermountain Health and the government of Rwanda would be among the first to use its new home delivery platform. While Zipline has completed more than 600,000 deliveries using the P1 system, none of those customers have yet begun using P2, according to a company spokesperson.

Zipline didn't specify when exactly each new customer would start using its P2 system, nor did the company share how many drones would be allocated for each. A spokesperson did say that Zipline is gearing up for high-volume flight testing of its P2s this summer, which will involve more than 10,000 test flights using about 100 aircraft, after which customer deployment should follow.

The company aims to operate more flights annually than most other major U.S. airlines by 2025.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that GNC will use Zipline's P2 delivery system in Salt Lake City later this year. The company will be using Zipline's P1 system this year.