Passenger Drones Edge Closer to Reality

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In the last two decades, the number of passengers and commercial vehicles has risen dramatically. Between 2006 and 2015, the CAGR of vehicles on roads was recorded at 4.7%, while the number of roads hardly changes. This increase in vehicles has also witnessed an increase in… (Featured image is intended for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://www.maxpixel.net/Drones-Quadrocopter-Nature-Drone-Camera-Rotors-2878025)  

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In the last two decades, the number of passengers and commercial vehicles has risen dramatically. Between 2006 and 2015, the CAGR of vehicles on roads was recorded at 4.7%, while the number of roads hardly changes. This increase in vehicles has also witnessed an increase in the number of accidents. Besides, traffic snarls have become the order of the day across several major cities globally. These snarls have also been causing concerns of delay for emergency services such as ambulances, fire brigades, police vehicles, etc.

Increase in vehicles from 2006 to 2017 globally
Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/281134/number-of-vehicles-in-use-worldwide/

This increase in vehicles using conventional sources of energy has also led to a massive increase in pollution levels. The rising concentration of PM 2.5 particles in the atmosphere has been a cause of concern among environmentalists who are concerned about its effect on lifespan and death rates globally. Asia is one of the most affected continents with air pollution being a major cause of death.

Country wise analysis of Death Rate from PM2.5 vs PM2.5 concentration.
Source: https://ourworldindata.org/air-pollution

Can drones provide a solution?

Forget about couriering parcels, delivering food and photography or military purposes, drones are now being explored to even transport people!

If drones can be leveraged as a taxi, personal vehicle or emergency vehicle, it can reduce the burden of road traffic and help save time, resources and reduce pollution.

If you think this is still in the ideation stage, then you are in for a surprise. Dubai’s transportation agency has tested a drone as a taxi.  This drone was designed by Chinese company Ehang. The drone can carry a single passenger weighing up to 220 pounds and a small suitcase and can fly for up to 30 minutes. The traveler enters the drone and inputs a destination within 31 miles. The drone can fly at a speed of 62mph or 99kmh and is monitored by a control room. It takes off and lands at predetermined points and uses cameras to ensure a safe landing. In case the drone malfunctions or disconnects from the 4G mobile service, the drone lands at the nearest safest point. Ehang has earned an approval to test flights in Nevada, United States.

Texas-based Argodesign has conceptualized an ambulance drone that does not necessarily need a pilot. It can carry one medical technician. The size of the design is similar to that of a small car which allows it to easily land even in small and congested areas such as a street. The drone is modelled on a standard quadcopter and is driven by a GPS, a pilot or by combination of both.

CIAS Inc and Daimler have also been working on prototyping drones as cabs. CIAS Inc has filed an application US20170116814A1 for using the drone as a taxi service. This patent elucidates on a taxi drone system operation with safety features. The transportation system sends the drone to a pick-up zone following a passenger’s request. The drone has a biorecognition to identify the passenger. After the identity of the passenger is confirmed, the passenger enters the drone taxi in the pickup zone and secures oneself with safety belts. The drone taxi travels to the drop zone nearest to the passenger’s destination and confirms safe arrival to the monitoring authority. In case of an emergency, the passenger can activate the emergency button in the drone. In such cases, the drone makes an emergency landing to the nearest safety zone.

US20170116814A1 : Door-to-Door drone taxi system

Daimler has also been exploring this space. It has filed an application DE102016005931A1 for autonomous air vehicles for passenger transport. This patent speaks of a drone consisting of a passenger compartment with one row of passenger seats, an electric charging system, and a monitoring and location information system. The drone also provides space to secure bags for multiple passengers.

Although drones are not the permanent solution to current traffic and pollution problems, but they are a big step forward to initiate a change. Drones as emergency vehicles can be revolutionary. However, there is much left to explore.

Drones can prove to be useful only if they can be better designed to carry multiple people at a go. Also, the safety of drones needs much improvement. They need to be tested and monitored in multiple weather conditions too. The safety of passengers in case of an accident or emergency needs to be improved and should meet safety guidelines before using a drone as a passenger vehicle.

 

(Featured image is intended for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://www.maxpixel.net/Drones-Quadrocopter-Nature-Drone-Camera-Rotors-2878025)  

Parth Grover
Parth Grover

Parth is an Electronics & Communications engineer, but an athlete at heart. He is passionate about football, partial to Liverpool. A traveller and a trekker, he cherishes exploring places.


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