This week, Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company that designs, manufactures, and operates drones to deliver vital medical products, announced its new Detection and Avoidance (DAA) system for drones. This is a first for the drone industry and huge step towards more widespread use of drones for deliveries in our national airspace. The DAA system uses onboard acoustic-based technology to allow for safe and autonomous flights in complex, uncontrolled airspace. The system provides a 360-degree awareness with a range of a little more than a mile. Using the onboard DAA system, the drone can autonomously monitor the airspace for other aircraft in real-time and adapt to changes in its programmed flight path.

Co-founder and CTO of Zipline, Keenan Wyrobek, said that the DAA system 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.”

Prior to this DAA system, other detection and avoidance technologies relied on bulky or ground-based systems for awareness during flight, but such solutions are not practical for scaling small, long-range drone operations. This new DAA technology uses an acoustic-based system, which is lightweight and affordable which will assist in adhering to the precision mandated by regulators during autonomous drone operations. This new DAA hardware has already been built into Zipline’s own drones and is ready to be used pending regulatory approval. This DAA system will likely lead to safer, more efficient drone delivery operations, which could lead to more widespread use and approval by regulators who are concerned with the safety implications of autonomous drone delivery.