Urban Drone Deliveries
Effectively a drone is an unmanned flying robot. This sample essay details how the aerial vehicle is manned either by remote control or it can be fitted with software that controls its actions and flight path, in conjunction with global positioning systems (GPS). Initial applications have been associated with the military, space orbit, search and rescue and disaster response, scientific applications related to weather observation, and now, urban drone deliveries.
Photographers have made significant inroads into the use of drones for amazing aerial shots formerly impossible to accomplish economically, like many of the wildlife and nature photographs and videos used by National Geographic. Personal hobbyist use of drones is growing, often focused on flying, exploration and photography operations, along with sheer enjoyment of use, sometimes creating invasion of homeowner privacy circumstances.
The U. S. Department of Defense has been making use of drones for years. They are referred to as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RPAS. Military drones come in many sizes, including colossal drones, like the MQ-9 Reaper, and the MQ-1B Predator, which can transport Laser or GPS guided weapons such as bombs or missiles; Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems with cameras and sensors; front end cameras, infra-red imaging, radar; and V-shaped tails which provide for drone stability.
These drones have served the military in Afghanistan and Pakistan, providing reconnaissance for insurgents and roadside bombs, intelligence on daily routines, surveillance, and bomb attacks. Reapers and Predators consist of the aircraft component, a satellite connection and a control station. The drone’s take-off and landing aspects are monitored and controlled locally. The drone is flown by remote control from an airbase, potentially far away. The drones perform robotically, but are remotely piloted by military crew who monitor images returned from onboard cameras and respond to information cues provided.
In fact, drones were used by the CIA to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan where he was ultimately killed. The drones were made to circumvent radar detection and fly high above the terrain. Clandestine reconnaissance and surveillance flights were piloted (unmanned) to obtain high-resolution images. The CIA was able to fly past border restrictions placed by Pakistan undetected. The stealth drones were able to perform maneuvers the Reaper and Predator could not. A drone accompanied other aircraft on the night of the Bin Laden raid.
NASA Space Applications
In addition to military applications, drones are an asset to NASA exploration endeavors. NASA engineers, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are developing a drone with the capacity to land on Mars and provide reconnaissance intelligence that would allow personnel to see around taller terrain and allow them to make better strategic decisions faster.
The drone, which they call a helicopter, is small like the drones we see for personal use. The NASA drone could be deployed by the 2020 Mars Rover and would serve to aid the technological transport to better facilitate its exploratory goals. The Mars Rover is a six-wheeled robot, about the size of a car, that has lots of scientific instruments to test for signs of past life, gather samples and prepare for possible human exploration in the future. There are technological challenges that come with dealing with atmosphere on Mars versus Earth, but NASA is up for the challenge and is adapting the drone to be more Martian suitable.
Flirty, a drone startup company, made a Federal Aviation Administration-approved (FAA) delivery of emergency supplies by drone to a clinic in rural Virginia last year (Vanian). On March 10, 2016, the company made its first FAA endorsed drove delivery to an urban setting, purely automatically, without human piloting. The drone’s flight plan was programmed though GPS, then staff outfitted the drone with boxed emergency supplies. The drone then flew to an uninhabited home in Hawthorne, Nevada, where it lowered the supplies by rope while hovering above the home.
UPS – UPS will not be caught off guard. UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund invests in startups that could, potentially, have a disruptive or complementary influence on UPS’ current business model. The company has established a strategic relationship, and is in a critical position to gain important intelligence that will keep the company on the cutting-edge of preparedness for any prospective pivots needed in the future.
UPS, one of the largest package delivery and supply chain logistics companies, is not limiting the possibilities to progressive delivery options. The organization is also looking into drone impact on humanitarian disaster relief efforts. FedEx, on the other hand, does not see drones as an important consideration, almost to the level of amusement, since drones cannot deal with the distribution of heavy packages. FedEx is more concerned with the current trend that is moving from overnight delivery to the less expensive ground transportation option, which has impacted their bottom line at various points.
Amazon – Flirty was able to trump Amazon’s Octocoptor in its race to create drones capable of delivering smaller products to customers and obtain FAA approval (Vanian). The company had prior experience testing drone deliveries in New Zealand and Australia. Amazon is testing its drones in Canada and the Netherlands due to the ardent restrictions the FAA places on testing in American airways. The company struck a deal with McDonald’s recently.
Amazon is testing the possibility of using drones to deliver packages to its customers within a 30 minute period. The packages would be inserted into buckets attached to the UAVs. The drones, part of the Amazon Prime Air project, can carry loads up to five pounds, which represents over 85% of the deliveries Amazon makes. Amazon expects that the service will be available to its customers by 2018.
Mountain Aviation – The FAA has approved Mountain Aviation to operate commercial drone undertakings. The company has been in the private jet business for more than 23 years. The FAA, has created an exception to their no commercial restriction, to allow the company to move into the commercial drone space. The services the company will provide include wildlife monitoring, agricultural resources, aerial video and mapping, forestry protection, industrial and energy system inspections, and search and rescue .
Mountain Airlines was given the ARGUS Platinum Safety rating, one of a small elite group of private jet businesses. Gregg Fahrenbruch, the CEO of Mountain Airlines stated, “After two decades as a global leader in private jet charter we are excited to bring our technology based aviation safety systems to long unregulated and emerging commercial [drone] market”.
Will drones replace Fedex, UPS, and USPS? Check out our business analysis of Fedex to learn more.
FAA Rules are stringent & testing is expensive
Nevada is one of several states that the FAA has given permission for the testing of drones. The agency has banned drone use by commercial entities in the United States, but has granted strident exceptions. A commercial entity must use a licensed pilot to operate the drone, and the drone must be within that person’s sight. These restrictions make testing almost cost-prohibitive unless the company has deep pockets.
Another consideration for organizations is that delivery trucks, such as UPS, FedEx or the United States Postal Service can service many more customers than a drone is able to. A drone can possibly deliver a few Big Macs and some sodas, or a pair of sneakers, but that pales in comparison to the delivery power of a company such as UPS.
Drone startups & commercialization
Drone technology has great prospects, though, in the area of emergency medical supply delivery or shipping replacement parts to remote and difficult destinations such as an oil rig. Woman-owned drone startup Matternet has already experienced success delivering humanitarian aid into Haiti after the earthquake, including delivery of blood samples to testing centers for HIV/AIDS testing.
Dodo Pizza, a pizza delivery company in Syktyvkar, Russia, was the first organization to deliver pizza using a drone in 2014. The company opened its doors in 2011. Company executives said:
Everybody who previously announced about pizza delivery by copters was just shooting advertisement videos. We did business from it. We overcame technical difficulties and created an operating business model where pizza delivery is interconnected with the show and active sales.
Search and Rescue
Another application for drones is search and rescue. S.W.A.R.M. or Search with Aerial Rc Multi-rotor is a volunteer organization of search and rescue drone pilots who give of their time and resources for finding missing persons. Making use of maneuverable devices like drones is cost, search and risk effective. Using video camera technology, difficult terrain and dangerous topography can be surveilled in much less time than with a group of individuals conducting an on land search.
Once the person is found, their location can be sent back to the command post immediately. In addition, supplies and emergency provisions can be delivered to the target, if needed. For example, a victim could be given food and water, a blanket, a GPS locater, medical supplies, a walkie-talkie, or other useful items.
In addition to military and space applications, the U. S. government uses drones to monitor and protect wildlife within its lands. Often the agencies, like the United States Geological Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of the Interior, receive drones no longer in use by the military. The U. S. Geological Survey employs the drones to monitor sandhill cranes when they gather on the ground at night. Further, orangutan conservancy uses drones to locate where they make their home and once the location is identified, to protect them from developers destroying their habitats.
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