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Which Delivers First: Ground Drones or Aerial Drones?

Posted July 07, 2016 10:21 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: delivery drone suppy chain

Aerial delivery drones are so 2014. There was a brief period where many companies were completing deliveries of online orders, pizzas, medicines and everything else with unmanned aircraft (UA). These publicity stunts are largely over, because drones aren’t really news anymore, and currently commercial use of UA is forbidden while stuck in FAA regulatory limbo, with new rules announced last week.

Nonetheless, drones seem to have a place in future logistics chains. The so-called last mile of the delivery chain—the short, individual trips to a single customer—are the most inefficient. Scaling the delivery mechanism to match the application is the solution, so it’s possible that when the FAA establishes rules and technologies for commercial use, the drone boom is officially on.

Since drones are grounded, some manufacturers are transitioning drone delivery to pavement. This month, Starship Technologies is rolling out fleets of six-wheeled robots with cargo space for two grocery bags. The bots are currently nameless, but will begin delivering meals and more in London, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Bern. Starship Technologies employees will manually pilot the drones, but the bots are expected to learn preferred routes over sidewalks and streets, and will begin to operate autonomously, where one person will be able to manage 100 delivery bots.

The cargo hold of the bot, which is basically an autonomous cooler, is unlocked by the customer’s smart phone and people will be able to report wrong orders and other issues. Theft will be deterred by a speaker system that plays an alarm. Company executives say that feedback is positive or indifferent, probably because it looks like an unassuming large RC car.

It’s powered by electric motors and batteries that supply 2-3 hours of drive time before needing to be recharged. The top speed of the Starship bot is four miles per hour, meaning deliveries will be limited to a couple of miles radius, which makes them practical only for cities. For now, delivering to the suburbs or countryside via rolling delivery drone isn’t possible, a key area where aerial drones have an advantage. It’s also unknown how well it will cope in extreme traffic areas, such as downtown London at rush hour. Lastly, if driving delivery robots become prevalent, regulations will likely be left up to states as with autonomous vehicles, so potential legislation is a total wild card.

Yet companies see nothing but opportunity for drones as a delivery solution. And now it’s a race to who can get a market hold, and who can hold on to it after regulatory laws are passed.

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#1

Re: Which Delivers First: Ground Drones or Aerial Drones?

07/08/2016 1:30 PM

As long as they don't make those annoying beeps and blurbles like the do in the Star Wars movies, and stay out of the way of people in cars or afoot, I can live with this.

But this will surely be used to deliver explosives to a target.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Which Delivers First: Ground Drones or Aerial Drones?

07/08/2016 3:15 PM

Oh the irony.

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#4
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Re: Which Delivers First: Ground Drones or Aerial Drones?

07/08/2016 5:59 PM

Well that was fast. Let's try this one.

A drone will be used to deliver a billion dollars to me.

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Re: Which Delivers First: Ground Drones or Aerial Drones?

07/09/2016 8:21 AM

Can you break this?

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#3

Re: Which Delivers First: Ground Drones or Aerial Drones?

07/08/2016 3:39 PM

How about the old style bicycle delivery drone:

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