There’s a big buzz surrounding technology companies using drones for delivery related services. Some companies even claim to have started implementing and testing these services. Whatever is the case, most of the time this idea is looked upon as merely a fantasy not ready to be fulfilled soon enough. Let us have a look at what the real prospects of using drones as delivery services are.
Recently, we came across an ad of Amazon’s Prime Air featuring Jeremy Clarkson. In that ad, a girl has a soccer match later that morning. She does not have the left stud as it is being nibbled by her dog. Her dad, instead of getting annoyed or irritated, acts rationally and orders online for a pair of soccer shoes. The order is sent to the Amazon warehouse from where the package is set up in the drone. The drone take offs like a helicopter and flies to its destination. It is an intelligent drone and knows how to avoid any obstacles if they come. When it is near its destination, a message is sent informing the family that the package is near. Within thirty minutes, the pair of shoes is delivered to the house and everybody is glad. The content of the ad was pretty amazing and promising. However, what remains to be seen is that how soon this is coming into action. The ad categorically mentioned that the video of the drone flying was not stimulated, but actual. So, we do know that the drones of Amazon are up and able to fully function. Even the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) gave Amazon the permission to begin testing its drone.
Another big technological giant working on drone delivery is Google X. Google X is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. Google X is a half secret research and development facility which works on pretty interesting projects. The self driving car is one of the projects of Google X. The project responsible for using drones for delivery is Project Wing. It is similar to Amazon Prime Air except that Google’s drone does not land. It hovers above its destination location, winches down the package and takes off once the package has been put at the desired location. This project was announced at the end of August, 2014. By then, they had already been working on it for two years. However, those working on it admit themselves that it is not going to be functional anywhere in near future.
Dronlife: Some students in Spain are inventing a drone which will help move organs from one location to another without disrupting traffic. Can you simply believe it? This idea was initially submitted as an entry for a contest. In the same year in the UAE, the ‘Drones for Good’ competition was held and $1 million was offered for a design that would lead to better life improvement. One of the successful finalists was Dronlife which is an unmanned aerial vehicle to be used in transporting organs and laboratory materials. It was designed by 4 young women who were students at Spain’s School of Industrial Design.
Dronlife did not win the competition but attracted investors which include David Carro Meana, the president of a business school in Spain who with some of his colleagues launched a company to market the product. Another partner, Ricardo Blanco is helping in the improvement of the technology. It is currently in the final phase of development and has attracted financing from a private company in India and is scheduled to start flight tests in India.
Zipline Inc: Recently, it was also announced that the government of Rwanda is in agreement with a US based company to build infrastructure for drones which would be used in delivering medical supplies across the country. The agreement will see Zipline Inc. building three drone ports in the country.
In addition to improving medical conditions, drones can also play an active and an ever important role in disaster relief. Whether it is an earthquake or a flood, drones can be used to transport food and medical supplies to the affected areas. Drones are lighter than the aircrafts and helicopters and thus would be able to move quickly from and to affected areas. They will be able to assess the situation also.
Not only during natural disasters but drones can also come in handy in man-made disasters such as wars. Judging from the current political scenario of this world, it is quite clear wars are going to continue and thus the need of drones for humanitarian relief efforts would become unavoidable.
Regulations: The major problem that might hinder the use of drone for deliveries is regulation. The FAA has yet to come up with a complete handbook on laws and regulations pertaining to drones and delivery services.
Weight: The second issue is weight. It is evident that drones would not be able to carry large amounts of packages. Amazon’s Prime Air weighs about 55 lbs while Google’s drone is a mere 19 lbs. So, they would be carrying weights less than their weight. We have yet to see how they would fly if they have to carry weights larger than their size. And if they cannot come up with a solution, then there is no point in simply being able to deliver shoe boxes only. If this service is to run, it should be able to transport every type of package.
Drones are not allowed to fly above 400m. So, in a city with tall skyscrapers or in forests with tall trees, drones would not be able to function efficiently.
In conclusion, using drones for delivery services is a pretty good idea. The vision to have drones delivering everything within 30 minutes and using air space like trucks use roads is a pretty exciting idea. However, a lot needs to be done to bring it into practice. Various factors need to be taken into account and hindrances solved one by one. This cannot be possible until and unless all stakeholders work together.