At a time when Amazon is still battling it out with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to get the required clearance to allow its drones to fly and delivery packages to customers, Australian companies Zookal and Flirtey have joined hands to deploy hexacopters to tackle postal costs.
However, today if drones are moving out of the military zone and entering the commercial space, credit goes to Jeff Bezos’ announcement in 2013 that stunned the world and opened doors to a new arena of customer connect. According to the Amazon Prime Air page, Jeff Bezos said, “The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.” Amazon is still waiting to make headway with the required regulatory clearances to kickstart its project. But let’s step back and look through the smoke and mirrors to get a sense of where, when and how this system may be implemented and how far up the ladder is Amazon’s Prime Air Drone.
From an innovation standpoint, companies such as Lakemaid plan to deliver beer to fishermen via drones. While the company video showcases the drone delivery service in action, Lakemaid president Jack Supple admits that there is always a pilot nearby assisting the flight. This project was also shot down by the FAA, whose regulations mark commercial drones and similar UAVs as illegal.
Australian skies are drone-friendly
On this note, Australia seems to have friendlier skies. Australia’s startup Flirtey has joined forces with book rental service Zookal.com. The service markets itself as the first drone delivery service to provide books using hexacopters. Built to combat increasing postal costs and ensure successful delivery via location tracking of the customer’s mobile phone, the project is among the first to be legalized by the Australian Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This gives Flirtey the advantage of honing the technology and selling it across the globe when foreign regulatory organizations legalize commercial drones.
Will Google power up Uber’s services?
Back in America, car rental service Uber has a delivery and tracking system network called UberRUSH. While the system currently involves cabs and bicycles for delivery, the company is planning to earn the green signal to use drones for quicker delivery, adding to its suite of services.
Now, the goal of Amazon Prime Air, Flirtey and Lakemaid is a completely automated delivery system. However, the heavy human involvement in the Uber ecosystem may be its Achilles heel. But Google has that covered. Its driverless cars have been doing the rounds and managed to clock up to 300,000 miles on average, without any recorded accident. Google has already invested $250 million in Uber. It is hard to imagine why Google wouldn’t do an Uber + Google Driverless Car for delivery services?!
Google’s recent acquisition of various robotic outfits like Boston Dynamics also suggest that the Californian multinational may have finally achieved a head start to the problem Jeff Bezos is trying to address. It may combine robots into the delivery network and build a feasible, economical solution.
Boeing, Amazon, Lockheed in patent race
The patent side of things suggests a similar push by other companies in this direction. Boeing was recently granted US 8214098 titled System and method for controlling swarm of remote unmanned vehicles through human gestures. The patent outlines the controlling of a single unit or swarm of robot units via operator body gestures. According to the inventors, “It is anticipated that hundreds or more UAVs maybe be controlled by a single individual, both as a single group and a plurality of subgroups.”
A similar push is seen by Lockheed Martin Corporation in commercial drone development. The patent application titled, “Systems and methods for autonomous operations of unmanned aerial vehicles” describes a method to autonomously control unmanned vehicles.
Amazon tries the Santa Claus garb
Amazon is not late to the party though. It may be adopting a different approach to the drone-based delivery system with its Amazon Air Prime program that aims to deliver a package to the customer in 30 minutes. The entire supply chain here is scrutinized to ensure speedy warehouse departure and fast delivery. If Amazon’s patent US8615473 comes into play, then the company can pre-ship orders with ease and speed through drones.
This technology will enable Amazon to ship orders before the customer even orders it based on a variety of parameters like historical buying patterns, preferences expressed explicitly via surveys/ questionnaires, demographic data, browsing habits, wish-lists and so on. Although Amazon has not implemented this project in its supply chain, it could be a prime candidate for the Amazon Air Prime delivery system. Who wouldn’t be happy to find a drone hovering in front of their door with the order you were going to make but decided to write that email first!
These are exciting times to be the customers of these service and whichever platform the 30 minute delivery network takes up in the end, it is the customer who will be smiling all the way, either looking up into the sky or gazing into their driveways!
(Featured image source: https://pixabay.com/en/the-drones-sky-leisure-box-1134764/)