It’s a feel-good photo, a young team and some funky platforms. To an Africa old hand, I see the snag.
True, it will provide a consistent route to the sky. It’s complex, though, more complex than the aircraft even. It needs to be operated correctly every time. Worse still, should it fail, then the platform is out of action and no deliveries happen.
If I were Zipline, I would be looking to pivot to an SLT platform fast. This is the use case in which they make sense.
By parachuting their cargo in they don’t need the landing part of the VTOL. They might find they need to return something, though. It’s a one-way system.
There are several off the shelf systems that match or exceed their current platforms performance.
The Jump 20 from Arcturus leaps to mind (see what I did there), nine to twelve hours payload dependent, at a max speed of 72 knots.
Remember you heard it here first when they reveal it ;-)
Speaking at a press launch last week to announce the partnership with the UPS Foundation, UPS Foundation President Ed Martinez said
“If we can be successful in this pilot, we can be successful in other parts of the world, this is going to be a learning process for us.”
On a more positive note, Rwanda is coming from a very dark place and is a very progressive country within Africa. It has achieved a 7.5% annual growth rate over the last ten years and dealt with corruption effectively. The World Bank rates it as the best country in Africa to do business with.
The elephant in the room, its President Paul Kagame who seems to want to stay around, outspoken opposition have a habit of not staying around.