Zipline unveils P2 delivery drones that dock and recharge autonomously
On Wednesday, Zipline showed off its next-generation aircraft, which it hopes will make rapid aerial deliveries an everyday convenience for customers throughout the U.S., even in densely populated urban areas.
Zipline’s new drone, dubbed the Platform 2 or P2 Zip, is capable of carrying up to eight pounds worth of cargo within a ten-mile radius, and can land a package on a space as small as a table or doorstep.
“The reason that number is important,” says Zipline CEO and co-founder Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, “is that when you look at e-commerce in the US, a vast majority of packages weigh five pounds or less.”
The P2 Zip can travel ten miles in ten minutes, and the company can make a delivery approximately seven times faster than any typical service you may order from today, the CEO said. Rapid deliveries by drone may put an end to “porch pirates,” Rinaudo Cliffton said, referring to the theft of packages left on a doorstep while the customer is away from home.
While Zipline’s original drone, the P1 Zip, features a fixed wing or glider-like design, the P2 employs both lift and cruise propellers and a fixed wing. These help it maneuver precisely and quietly, even in rainy or windy weather.
To deliver cargo to a customer’s door, the P2 Zip hovers around 300 feet above ground level and dispatches a kind of mini-aircraft and container called the “droid.” The droid descends on a long thin tether, and maneuvers quietly into place with fan-like thrusters before setting down for package retrieval.
Zipline’s original P1 drones will remain in production and in wide use, says Rinaudo Cliffton. The P1 Zip can fly a longer distance, delivering up to five pounds of cargo within a 60-mile radius, but it requires a larger space for take off, landings and “the drop.”
The P1 Zip lets cargo down with a parachute attached, so its payload lands within a space about the size of two car parking spots. After a P1 Zip returns to base, an employee needs to disassemble it, then set up a new one, dropping in a freshly charged battery for the next flight.
Zipline’s new P2 Zip can dock and power up autonomously at a charging station that looks something like a street lamp with an arm and a large disc attached to that arm:
A rendering of P2 Zips charging at a docking station.
Zipline docks can be installed in a single parking spot or alongside a building depending on zoning and permits. Zipline envisions the docks set up by restaurants in a downtown shopping district, or alongside the outer wall of a hospital, where the droid can be inserted into a window or dumbwaiter, retrieved, and reloaded by healthcare workers indoors.
Setting up one of these docks takes about as much work as installing an electric vehicle charger, Rinaudo Cliffton said.
Before developing the P2 Zip, Zipline had established logistics networks in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda already. It is operating some drone delivery networks in the US, in North Carolina, Arkansas and Utah — but the P2 will help it expand that network.
Partners who plan to test deliveries via P2 Zip include the healthy fast-casual restaurant Sweetgreen, Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, Michigan Medicine, Multicare Healthcare System in Tacoma, Wash., and the government of Rwanda.
Zipline is not alone in its ambitions. Zipline is part of a program with other startups like DroneUp and Flytrex to make deliveries for Walmart. Amazon, meanwhile, has been working on making drone deliveries a reality here for nearly a decade, although that business has struggled to overcome a thicket of regulation and low demand from test customers.
Quiet and green is the goal
Zipline head of engineering Jo Mardall told CNBC the company focused much of its engineering on making sure the drones were not just safe and energy-efficient, but also quiet enough that residents would embrace their use.
“People are worried about noise, rightly. I’m worried about noise. I don’t want to live in a world where there’s a bunch of loud aircraft flying above my house,” he said. “Success for us looks like being in the background, being barely audible.” That means something closer to rustling leaves than a car driving by.
The droid component of the P2 Zip is designed to enter distribution centers through a small portal, where it’s loaded up with goods for delivery.
The P2 Zips have a unique propeller design that makes this possible, Mardall explained, adding, “The fact that the Zip delivers from from 300 feet up really helps a lot.”
Mardall and Rinaudo Cliffton emphasized that Zipline aims to have a net-beneficial impact on the environment while giving business a better way to move everything from hot meals to refrigerated vaccines just in time to customers.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, they explained, avoid worsening traffic congestion by going overhead. And since Zipline’s drones are electric, they can be powered with renewable or clean energy, without the emissions from burning jet fuel, gasoline, or diesel.
But most importantly, the CEO said, Zipline’s drone delivery allows companies to “centralize more inventory,” and “dramatically reduce waste.”
A study published by Lancet found that hospitals using Zipline services were able to reduce their total annual blood supply waste rate by 67%, the CEO boasted.
“That is a mind-blowing statistic, and a really big deal. It saves health systems millions of dollars, by reducing inventory at the last mile and only sending it when it’s needed.”
Zipline is aiming to bring that efficiency to every corner of commerce, the CEO said. It’s also aiming to keep the cost of drone delivery competitive with existing services, like FedEx and UPS, or food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Instacart.
But first, the startup plans to conduct more than 10,000 test flights using about 100 new P2 Zips this year. With its existing P1 drones, Zipline is already on track to complete about 1 million deliveries by the end of 2023, and by 2025 it expects to operate more flights annually than most commercial airlines.
Apple launches its Pay Later service
Kevin Mazur | Getty Images
Affirm dropped 4% on the news.
Apple Pay Later users will be able to manage, track and repay their loans in their Apple Wallet, the company said in a release Tuesday. Individuals can apply for Apple Pay Later loans between $50 and $1,000 and use them for in-app and online purchases made through merchants that accept Apple Pay. Payments have no interest and no fees.
Users can apply for a loan within the Apple Wallet app without it impacting their credit score, Apple said. Once they select the amount they would like to withdraw, a soft credit pull will be conducted to make sure they are in “a good financial position” to take on a loan, according to the release.
Apple will invite select people to access a prelease version of Apple Pay Later Tuesday, and the company said it plans to expand access to all eligible users in the coming months.
Approved users will see a “Pay Later” option while using Apple Pay to check out online and in apps on iPhones and iPads. They will also be able to apply for a loan right at checkout. Apple said purchases using the software will be authenticated using Face ID, Touch ID or a passcode.
The company said users can see the amount due for their existing loans, as well as the total amount due in the next 30 days, in Apple Wallet. Users will be asked to link a debit card as their loan repayment method. Credit cards won’t be accepted.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
Microsoft introduces an A.I. chatbot for cybersecurity experts
John Taggart | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The company has been busy bolstering its software with artificial intelligence models from startup OpenAI after OpenAI’s ChatGPT bot captured the public imagination following its November debut.
The resulting generative AI software can at times be “usefully wrong,” as Microsoft put it earlier this month when talking up new features in Word and other productivity apps. But Microsoft is proceeding nevertheless, as it seeks to keep growing a cybersecurity business that fetched more than $20 billion in 2022 revenue.
The Microsoft Security Copilot draws on GPT-4, the latest large language model from OpenAI — in which Microsoft has invested billions — and a security-specific model Microsoft built using daily activity data it gathers. The system also knows a given customer’s security environment, but that data won’t be used to train models.
The chatbot can compose PowerPoint slides summarizing security incidents, describe exposure to an active vulnerability or specify the accounts involved in an exploit in response to a text prompt that a person types in.
A user can hit a button to confirm an answer if it’s right or select an “off-target” button to signal a mistake. That sort of input will help the service learn, Vasu Jakkal, corporate vice president of security, compliance, identity, management and privacy at Microsoft, told CNBC in an interview.
Engineers inside Microsoft have been using the Security Copilot to do their jobs. “It can process 1,000 alerts and give you the two incidents that matter in seconds,” Jakkal said. The tool also reverse-engineered a piece of malicious code for an analyst who didn’t know how to do that, she said.
That type of assistance can make a difference for companies that run into trouble hiring experts and end up hiring employees who are inexperienced in some areas. “There’s a learning curve, and it takes time,” Jakkal said. “And now Security Copilot with the skills built in can augment you. So it is going to help you do more with less.”
Microsoft isn’t talking about how much Security Copilot will cost when it becomes more widely available.
Jakkal said the hope is that many workers inside a given company will use it, rather than just a handful of executives. That means over time Microsoft wants to make the tool capable of holding discussions in a wider variety of domains.
The service will work with Microsoft security products such as Sentinel for tracking threats. Microsoft will determine if it should add support for third-party tools such as Splunk based on input from early users in the next few months, Jakkal said.
If Microsoft were to require customers to use Sentinel or other Microsoft products if they want to turn on the Security Copilot, that could very well influence the purchasing decisions, said Frank Dickson, group vice president for security and trust at technology industry researcher IDC.
“For me, I was like, ‘Wow, this may be the single biggest announcement in security this calendar year,’” he said.
There’s nothing stopping Microsoft’s security rivals, such as Palo Alto Networks, from releasing chatbots of their own, but getting out first means Microsoft will have a head start, Dickson said.
Security Copilot will be available to a small set of Microsoft clients in a private preview before wider release at a later date.
WATCH: Microsoft threatens to restrict data from rival AI search tools
Disney reportedly cuts metaverse division under Iger’s restructuring
Randy Shropshire | CNBC
Disney, like most companies in 2021, hopped on the metaverse hype train after Facebook changed its name to Meta and outlined bold claims to create a new digital world. Former CEO Bob Chapek established a unit focused on the company’s metaverse strategy led by Mike White, who was previously in charge of Disney’s consumer experiences and platforms. Chapek told employees in a memo at the time that White’s task was “connecting the physical and digital worlds” for Disney entertainment.
All 50 of the employees under White were let go, according to the report, but White remains at the company. His new role remains unclear.
Disney never explicitly outlined what it planned to do with the metaverse, but Chapek said in a 2021 earnings call that Disney was creating “unparalleled opportunities” for consumers to engage with its products and platforms.
“Suffice it to say our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse,” he said during the call.
Chapek was succeeded by Bob Iger, who returned to Disney’s helm late last year.
The latest layoffs were initially announced in February and will impact about 7,000 employees, according to a memo sent by Iger. The job cuts will be cross-company, hitting Disney’s media and distribution division, parks and resorts, and ESPN.
Since returning as CEO, Iger has reorganized the company and acknowledged that he’d consider selling Hulu. The layoffs are part of a broader effort to reduce corporate spending and boost free cash flow. Disney said last month it plans to cut $5.5 billion in costs, including $3 billion in content spend.
Disney will host its annual shareholder meeting April 3.
Read more from The Wall Street Journal.
— CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.
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