Here’s an off-the-shelf delivery drone for entrepreneurs

If you’re seeking to launch a business that involves delivery drones, this might be the product for you. Los Angeles-based A2Z Drone Delivery, which has a history of making products related to delivery drones (including the drones themselves) this month announced an entirely off-the-shelf delivery drone. It’s called the RDST, and it’s set to provide a relatively easy way for entrepreneurs and innovators to bring delivery drones into their businesses.

The RDST is short for “Rapid Delivery System,” and it’s a cargo drone that can fly up to nine miles in one trip and is capable of carrying up to 5kg (which is 11 pounds). Costs vary based on how deeply you spec it out, but it starts at $20,000.

Depending on the client, the RDST might deliver donuts. But A2Z Drone Delivery also says it wants to see its drones delivering medical supplies or life-saving equipment for search and rescue operations.

RDST drone
Photo courtesy of A2Z Drone Delivery.

What to know about the RDST drone

RDST is a delivery drone that’s largely ready to go right out of the box. It’s an octocopter, meaning it has eight arms and rotors (as opposed to something like the popular quadcopter that has just four). That provides redundancy in case one rotor fails (a quadcopter drone cannot fly with just three rotors, as it would immediately crash to the ground, while octocopters can safely land even with just seven working rotors).

While many delivery drones — including those from Zipline and Google sister company Wing — are made in-house using proprietary vehicles, this is a drone accessible to the masses. In a lot of ways it’s similar — and could be seen as a competitor — to DJI’s M600 drone. The DJI M600 is The M600 is also a fully integrated drone designed for professional filmmaking and industrial applications. And those industrial applications range from the expected, like search and rescue or mapping, to the unexpected, like collecting water samples.

Here are some key specs of the RDST drone:

  • 29 inches tall
  • Collapsible rotors for transport
  • Can fly up to a 9-mile round trip from a main distribution center.
  • Rated for safe flight with payloads up to 5kg/11 pounds.
  • The cargo bay can accept packages up to 45L x 45W x 35H cm / 18L x 18H x 14H inch.

Among the features of the new RDST integrated cargo drone:

  • Hovering (not landing) system: Lowers items via the RDS2 winch (more on that later)
  • Upgraded Ground Control Station (called A2Z QGC): This user interface integrates RDS2 commands and telemetry with open-source Q Ground Control mission planning software. With that, the drone can conduct pre-planned automated delivery missions without needing to land.
  • Extended Radio Range: Offers up to 30 km transmission range with optional 4G LTE connectivity.
  • Onboard Lidar: You can receive relative AGL height readings. This also unlocks optional precision delivery and landing capabilities.
  • Open-source flight control software: This allows for integration with third-party hardware and software.

It also meets current FAA weight requirements for commercial delivery drones.

The winch system. The winch system. Photo courtesy of A2Z Drone Delivery.

About the RDST package drop system

Unlike some other drone delivery vehicles, RDST drones don’t actually land, instead slowly dropping packages from a winch-like system. The company says this serves two primary purposes:

  1. Consumer protection concerns: By keeping the drones higher than window height, privacy concerns of low-flying drones are mitigated — as are complaints about any potentially intrusive rotor noise.
  2. Safety: Since the drone hover high, there is no concern that kids, pets and, yes, even adults, might try to reach for the drone and get hurt by the propellers (and ultimately disrupt the drone’s path). With the release of the new RDS2 and RDST, A2Z Drone Delivery is expanding its lineup of drone delivery hardware focused on its core mission of creating systems that address consumer-protection concerns with burgeoning residential drone deliveries. By conducting deliveries from altitude, A2Z Drone Delivery’s solutions protect recipients from spinning UAV propellers, while mitigating privacy concerns of low-flying drones and abating intrusive rotor noise.

In tandem with the RDST release, this month A2Z also launched the second generation of its Rapid Delivery System called RDS2, which includes an automated delivery winch that eliminates the need for specialty cargo boxes, and is capable of delivering any payload up to 10 kg (22 pounds). In fact, A2Z clams that this is the highest payload capacity delivery winch on the market.

That RDS2 is the same delivery system already integrated in the RDST (though you can purchase the standalone Rapid Delivery System for installation on a myriad of popular enterprise delivery drones).

RDST drone
Photo courtesy of A2Z Drone Delivery.

Who should consider buying the RDST drone?

As far as who it’s for? Anyone looking to expand an existing business to include drone delivery machines, or existing drone service providers who are already conducting deliveries and are looking to augment their fleets. That might be a restaurant looking to get into residential drone delivery. Perhaps even more likely is industrial applications.

A spokesperson for A2Z Drone Delivery said that, while it launched only this month, the RDS2 has been beta tested by drone service providers who are primarily conducting inter-site transport for airport parts, shore to ship for oil rigs, search and rescue testing in the mountains of Canada, and defense industry testing.

And given that A2Z Drone Delivery is based in Los Angeles, California, it could also be a good option for companies looking to use drones made in America.

Photo courtesy of A2Z Drone Delivery.

What to know about A2Z

A2Z Drone Delivery’s mission as of late has been expanding its lineup of drone delivery hardware. Its mostly known for its patented delivery system, and the company focuses on last-mile drone deliveries.

The company initially started as a university project back in 2016 at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The company itself is relatively new having started up at the beginning of 2021. The company, which was co-founded by former Google software engineer Evan Hertafeld, is based in Los Angeles.

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