Now you can buy your very own, ready-to-fly delivery drone. And this is not one of those cheap, hardly-useful devices you buy online that can only fly something light, like a single taco. This one is capable of flying 15 lbs. Called the RDSX Pelican, this delivery drone is the new, flagship product from A2Z Drone Delivery — and it can be yours.
The RDSX Pelican uses a hybrid VTOL design that can handle up to 5 kg payloads on up to 40 km routes.
That said, it won’t come cheap. It starts at $29,000, and only goes up from there depending on the configurations you go with. But it’s a big leap for companies wanting to run their own delivery drone operations, but who don’t have the resources to build their own, in-house drones.
To date, most of the major delivery drone service providers including Zipline, Flytrex and Google-sibling Wing use proprietary drones made in-house, therefore not available to the general public. They have robust engineering teams solving not just the problems around making drone deliveries (like logistics of delivering to customers homes as well as dealing with local rules and other policies) but trying to build the drones themselves.
While A2Z likely can’t solve the first half of those problems, it can solve the second half for you via its RDSX Pelican delivery drone. Here’s what you need to know about this ready-made delivery drone, and how to get your hands on it:
Inside the RDSX Pelican delivery drone
The RDSX Pelican delivery drone is a hybrid VTOL drone, which basically means it can combine the benefits of multi-rotor platforms (e.g. quadcopters), such as being able to takeoff and land in tight spaces, with the benefits of fixed-wing drones, such as more efficient flying over longer distances with heavier payloads yet longer flight times.
The design is sleep and simply, with no ailerons, elevator or rudder. Its makers say that the innovative design will eliminate common points of failure and exponentially extend operational time between maintenance overhauls. There are also minimal moving parts, like no servos to replace.
You won’t even need a special box to ship products through with it. The Pelican can accept any shape payload with dimensions up to 400 x 300 x 300mm — no specialty delivery boxes needed.
The drone is capable of both dropping off and picking up packages. A patent-pending auto-release mechanism can deposit any box without the need for a human receiver. Meanwhile, it can retrieve payloads up to 5 kg while maintaining hover at a safe altitude. You might use the optional manual-release hook capable. while the passive payload lock secures cargo during flight.
The drone can carry payloads of 5 kg (about 11 lbs), which is a completely-intentional cap to help the drone meet the 55-pound takeoff weight limitation for FAA Part 107 compliance. Basically, it’s only legal to fly drones weighing less than 55 pounds (including payload) right now in the U.S., unless you have a special waiver such as if you’re flying in the New York Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at Griffiss International Airport, which has a special FAA grant to fly drones up to 300 pounds.
The drone can fly up to 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) in one roundtrip. Here are some other key specs:
- Cruising speed: 45 knots
- Max Payload Capacity: Advertised as 5 kg, but configurable up to 7-8 kg
- Max Range: 50 km with no payload or 40 km with 5 kg payload
- Max Takeoff Weight: 55 lb (that’s an FAA regulation)
It all costs about $25,000. That said, A2Z sells upgraded configurations that will cost you more. You might be seeking extended range operations or need to deliver payloads from higher altitudes, upon which there are upgraded configurations available at a higher price.
For example, you might use the A2Z Drone Delivery drone winch to deliver drones at higher altitudes (useful if keeping those spinning propellers far away from people and property is crucial, or if you don’t want to fly drones low either to mitigate consumer privacy concerns or simply cut back on the loud noise of a nearby drone).
And if you want to increase the RDSX Pelican’s payload capacity, you might upgrade to a servo-release mechanism.
The drone uses a controller that can connect with any MAVLink-enabled device. An automatic network selector is able to transitions between multiple 4G networks and a mesh radio link for better connectivity. The portable ground control station is enabled with A2Z QGroundControl.
And this new, off-the-shelf delivery drone, is basically right here, right now. Pre-orders are open, and the company says it expects initial deliveries to be made in June 2023 (doled out on a first-come-first-served basis).
Who is the RDSX Pelican delivery drone for?
Finally, this looks to be a reliable delivery drone capable of carrying packages of an actually-realistic weight (we see you, original 2012 Tacocopter and we salute you).
It would certainly be of use for companies that want to get into making residential deliveries. It could just be an incredible marketing stunt at concerts, festivals or other events.
But beyond those use cases, it could be fully customized to suit unique mission criteria such as aerial mapping, drone inspection, forestry services, search and rescue operations, water sample collection, offshore deliveries, mining, etc.
A coast guard might use one to be able to send out life preservers and other supplies. A mining company might use it to bring supplies into areas that humans can’t. The list goes on.
Of course, it’s far from cheap, starting at $29,000. But once you’ve made the investment, it might actually be one of the cheapest ways to travel. A2Z says the drone has an operating cost of just 13 cents/kg/km.
For now, the optional payloads are:
RDSX Pelican with Winch: This is intended to deposits payload from altitude via tethered release, therefore keeping propellers far from ground obstructions such as trees, buildings or powerlines. You might use this for delivery missions into unknown topography.
RDSX Pelican Payloads: Simpler use cases might also opt for a simplified servo-release. The benefit of simplicity? The Pelican can carry even heavier payloads
Custom RDSX Pelican: A2Z Drone Delivery’s engineering team says it’s willing to work with customers to create mission-specific UAV platforms, which you might use for situations like drone inspection deployments, search and rescue missions, or any other unique demands.
Inside A2Z: the company making the RDSX Pelican delivery drone
A2Z Drone Delivery initially started as a university project back in 2016 at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Its founder, Evan Hertafeld, had a stint as a Google software engineer, until he founded his drone delivery company in 2021 (now based in Los Angeles).
Before designing the RDSX Pelican, A2Z has put out a few other delivery drones and related products — each of them showing clear evolutionary improvements over the last. A2Z’s previously most-recent product, the RDST drone, launched in 2022 and could fly up to nine miles with 5kg of cargo (and it actually started at an even-cheaper $20,000). Though unlike the hybrid VTOL that is larger seen as the standard for delivery drones today the RDST was an octocopter, which is generally seen as far less efficient.
Both evolve from the even more out-of-date RDSX drone, which was also an octocopter-style drone. That one could only carry up to 2 kg.
And prior to building entire drones, A2Z started with a delivery device that you could mount on existing drones, primarily the DJI Matrice 600. For $4,000 (and presumably a voided warranty) you could turn your DJI Matrice 600 into a delivery drone by affixing A2Z’s RDS1 (RDS is short for Rapid Delivery System) to it, which was essentially a tethered free-fall delivery mechanism that could drop payloads weighing up to 2 kg from as high as 150 feet in the air.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, with a Chinese footprint
While A2Z Drone Delivery is an American drone company with headquarters in Los Angeles, it recently announced plans to expand its Ground Zero Test Facility in Anji County outside Shanghai, China. The location is good for a few reasons, but one is the topography itself (it’s a mountainous bamboo forest, allowing engineers to test new drone solutions under real-life conditions in diverse topography and environmental conditions).
Anji County is pretty friendly to drones, and “the regulatory environment there has encouraged drone delivery for years,” according to a statement from A2Z. In fact, there, the drone is already conducting BVLOS operations, which are crucial to realistic drone deliveries everywhere else.
“To truly push the boundaries of autonomous unmanned drone delivery our development team needs to be able to test our latest delivery drone systems under real-life conditions,” Aaron Zhang, Founder and CEO of A2Z Drone Delivery, said in a prepared statement. “As the US regulations expand to compete with those in operation around the world, we will be ready to take to the skies with the most cutting-edge systems that have been proven safe, reliable and economical thanks to the testing and delivery missions we are able to do in Anji right now.”