The aviation industry is flourishing right now, with new models of helicopters, planes and drones capable of performing more complicated tasks than ever before. Even small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are used now by such demanding industries as law enforcement, agriculture, emergency rescue services, and since December 2016, also in goods delivery. This is your chance to find out more about the latest advances made in the latter, via use of drones by Amazon.
Amazon Drone Deliveries
It seems astonishing, but we are actually getting closer and closer to an era where we no longer need human labor for essentials of everyday life, for example, postal services.
Post operators have been relying on automated parcel and letter sorting for years now. Robots have been invented specifically to sort, load and unload parcels, as well as, to maintain order in warehouses. Thanks to scan able 2D barcodes (like QR codes) that pack more information in smaller space, companies and private customers can track parcels by shipment labels and monitor them the entire way to their final destination. That leads to higher transparency and reliability of postal services. And finally, with so many automated vehicles available, post carriers can give you a range of shipment options, including same-day delivery, which wasn’t possible just a few decades ago. All of these improve overall efficiency in the postal sector, cut costs and leave both service providers and their customers happy.
The newest developments, however, push all boundaries. Soon, postal service providers will no longer have to use regular vehicles that require drivers to deliver parcels. Thanks to Amazon and its leaps forward in delivery innovation, we may be able to receive our packages by drones in a few years.
Why isn’t this service provided worldwide, yet you ask? Right now, UAVs still have limitations preventing them from being used under various conditions. For example, drones can’t fly for a long enough time to reach another city, unless you’re launching it right on the border. Plus, due to the low lifting capacity of most drones, large packages are not able to be delivered.
Still, Amazon isn’t giving up hope, and on December 7th of 2016, completely unmanned delivery with a drone was carried out by the company to one of Amazon Prime’s customers. The whole process of delivering one bag of popcorn, plus a TV streaming stick, took 13 minutes with a UAV. Amazon claims that this Prime Air delivery service will enhance the package transportation system by making it safer and even more efficient. Granted, packages over 5 lbs. (or 2.6 kg) can’t be delivered with a drone yet. This service, in trial mode, is only available to two Amazon customers with large gardens (for safe landing) living right next to the Amazon depot – but it’s definitely the first step toward something great!
New UAV Patents – Paving the Way for Better Drone Deliveries
Exhilarated by the first success of Amazon Prime Air, the company went on to seek improvements to the drone delivery service. So, by the end of December 2016, news came out that Amazon is going to patent a completely new way of delivering heavier items via UAVs. Actually, the patent application was filed more than a year ago, in February 2015, but it only came to light at the end of 2016.
The idea under consideration to be patented is to create a Borg Cube, much like that in Star Trek, constructed entirely of fully functional drones, with the purpose of loading and carrying larger parcels. The unmanned flying device will consist of 4 drones on each side of the cube, attached to one another in a Lego-like fashion. Each of them contributes power and can be programmed by a computer to carry out a specific flight plan for the delivery at hand. The point of this construction is that a hollow cube of 24 drones offers more space inside to carry a package. In addition, it can last longer in flight mode because the weight of the parcel is distributed between 24 devices.
The Borg idea is not the only one Amazon has been trying to patent over the last few years. Other drone advancements that the company sees happening are, for example, hitchhiking UAVs that catch trucks and buses en route to reach their delivery destination. If that doesn’t seem strange enough, imagine a giant blimp floating at 45,000 feet over your town, releasing loaded drones to deliver Amazon merchandise. That idea has also been assimilated by the Amazon collective. Welcome to the future!
Drones are slowly but steadily moving from strictly entertainment to practical service uses, and we are definitely going to reap the advantages of that.