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Several big companies, including Amazon and Google, are racing to make drone delivery a reality. But one company is already doing it, creating what they call the fastest drone in the world. And it doesn't need to be remote controlled: it's all pre-programmed with GPS.
The company, Zipline International, is already using drones to deliver medical supplies in Africa. Their next target: the U.S.
In an area surrounded by farmland about 45 minutes outside Sacramento, California, TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen got an exclusive look at the new drone in action. "When you place a delivery, we can program the coordinates into the plane, launch it," Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo explained. "The plane flies autonomously out to wherever it needs to make a delivery, and then brings itself home."
Rinaudo said the drone travels at 80 mph and can make deliveries over 100 miles away. "Each distribution center can do over 500 deliveries a day and service 10 million people," he added.
To demonstrate the technology, Rossen and Rinaudo drove to a drop zone while flight engineers loaded the drone with a package and launched it into the sky. Once the drone was in the air, going from 0 to 60 mph in half a second, engineers were able to track its flight path in real time as it zeroed in on the exact GPS coordinates and dropped the package, which landed with a parachute right in front of Rossen and Rinaudo.
"This is the future of delivery," Rinaudo said. "This is going to be happening for healthcare logistics by the end of the year." For regular items, he said they’re hoping to make that happen in the next couple of years.
Rossen also got an exclusive demonstration of how the drones land... without a runway.