How will Google Air and other drone delivery systems work?
We Have the Technology, We can Build it Now
Those who keep saying “It will never work!” have no imagination.
Why are Amazon, Google and the UAE are spending millions on drone delivery research if drone delivery could “never happen”? Is it possible that these giant corporations and the government of the UAE know something that the toy drone owner doesn’t? Cellphone giants and NASA are researching a drone “ATC” system. These people don’t spend money on something that has no future.
Not only can it work, it already does work. In July, 2015 a demonstration flight by drone operator, startup Flirtey flew medical supplies to a rural clinic in Wise, Virgina . German delivery firm DHL routinely operates a drone to deliver medical supplies to an island in the North Sea that otherwise has to wait for one of the two daily ferries.
So how will it work? A year ago I hypothesized that drone delivery would start this way. Amazon Air will be very expensive. It is going to be for people who have to get product in less than a day. I don’t see general delivery to homes working for a while because there’s too many social challenges for that to happen. The scenario that I predict is that Amazon will set up satellite distribution centers around cities that already have an Amazon distribution hub. Packages needing immediate delivery will be flown by drone from the hub to the rooftop of the distribution center where the brown truck will make the last few miles delivery (or the customer can be there waiting for the drone). The distribution center will load the drones they collected during the day and be trucked back to the hub at the end of the day. Eventually, the distribution center will swap batteries and send the drone back to the hub.
Evidence? Amazon is in the process of opening storefronts that would be the perfect location for a drone port on the roof. There is one in its hometown of Seattle, another in San Diego, and a third planned for Portland, Oregon. Media reports have also indicated that Amazon may open bookstores in Chicago and New York. They employment ads where each store has one inventory manager who will run the store’s safety program. This is from the Amazon job posting:
Inventory Management Lead Top Line Objectives:
• In addition to being the Store’s Inventory Management lead, you run the store’s Safety Program.
• Safety is the store’s first priority. Everyone owns safety, but you are the store safety champion and a knowledgeable point of contact for our corporate safety partners.
Let your imagination stew over that one. Would Amazon Air be one of the safety partners?
Next, delivery to selected businesses will look pretty much the same except for the brown truck at the end. Amazon recently applied for a patent on a Drone Delivery Receptacle which uses IR Lasers to guide the drone to a precision landing.
You could even have a Drone Target with a Bluetooth transponder attached so that when the drone gets close, the Drone Target would guide the delivery drone into a landing.
I expect that in a few years the bike courier will be replaced with rooftop to rooftop delivery between office buildings.
When you stop thinking that Pizza on the porch is all that describes “Drone Delivery” then you begin to see a lot of opportunities.