The drones are taking over. It was widely announced that Amazon was testing potential delivery drones, but now it appears that UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service are trying them out as well.
Just recently, Nevada launched the first fully autonomous drone drop in an urban setting, marking one step closer to automated drone delivery everywhere. While visual observers watched the drone in case anything went wrong, the drone stayed on course and made the drop without issue using a GPS-established route.
Fast and Furious
Drone deliveries will benefit consumers immensely in terms of the speed and ease of delivery. 43 percent of those surveyed by Voxware said that they expected their online orders to be delivered in three to four days.
Given the increasing pressure being put on carriers to get packages out as fast as possible, drones are vital. Amazon plans to use their drones to deliver packages to customers almost instantly — within 30 minutes of them placing the order. UPS, on the other hand, wants to use drones to move packages between the company’s warehouses, ultimately helping the company to deliver faster as well.
But What About Security?
Security is definitely the top question people have when it comes to drones. Can people take down drones and get others’ packages? Do the drones have your address programmed into them to make the delivery?
These issues are why we might not actually see these drones in our neighborhoods for a while. Government regulation is the biggest challenge for these companies. Amazon admitted that their new service might appear in other countries before the U.S. because of the regulation process.
There’s also the issue of figuring out airspace for all of these drones and making sure they don’t interfere with other flying aircraft — or each other. Amazon has proposed a drone-specific airspace for them of around four or five thousand feet to ensure that they don’t get tangled up with airplanes and helicopters.
Amazon also believes that when they show how safe their system is, approvals for the drones won’t be far behind.
A Bit of Competition
Most of us have heard about Amazon’s drone plans, but what about the other guys? The U.S. Postal Service is looking into a system that combines an electric truck with drone technology. This would allow them to reach more addresses, with deliveries being made by both the truck and the drone simultaneously.
If the drone needs to be recharged, it can automatically dock on top of the truck and use some of the truck’s electricity to charge back up. This also helps prevent a drone from flying an excessive amount of miles to deliver something from a warehouse to a home.
The electric vehicles have a range that works with all of the current Post Office routes, and they come with a small generator in case they ever need to be recharged. They’re equipped with technology that puts less wear on the battery, giving it a better life.
Which Is the Best?
While UPS and FedEx have kept quieter with their plans, the race is on to be the first with drone technology. They want to be competitive with each other yet still all provide unique features. The technology is practically ready to go, but the red tape is still there.
Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration still hasn’t finalized rules and regulations to get this system into action. We may see drone services popping up around the globe before we get them in the United States. Still, one thing’s for sure — it’s only a matter of time before drones are everywhere.
A guest post by Megan Nichols. Megan Nichols enjoys examining the latest tech innovations on her blog, Schooled by Science. She also keeps up with the latest scientific discoveries on twitter, @nicholsrmegan.