Delivery Drone Aims To Make Package Handoffs Safer Than Ever

Picture this: you’re at home and you hear a rapping on your door. At last!– your parcel has arrived. You open the door, snatch a drone out of the air, fold it up, remove your package, unfold it and set it down only for it to take off on its merry way. Hand-delivery courier drones might be just over the horizon.

Designed in the [Laboratory of Intelligent Systems] at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and funded by [NCCR Robotics], this delivery drone comes equipped with its own collapsible carbon fibre shield — it fold up small enough to fit in a backpack — and is able to carry packages such as letters, small parcels, and first aid supplies up to 500 g and to 2 km away!

In addition to its capacity to automate courier services, it has clear applications in search and rescue, natural disaster aid, or remote location scenarios where supplies are needed. As a proof of concept, the team had their prototype successfully delivering 3D printed part sand PCBs straight to students at EPFL all summer.

The software they’ve written enables the drone to fly autonomously, and an associated app tracks the delivery status and location in real time on mobile devices for both shippers and receivers. In the future, the team hopes to improve its collision avoidance, add in a parachute for safety’s sake, and improve its payload capacity.

Might these be the postal workers of the future, flying directly to our dwellings and almost literally handing us our parcel? Well, for more information on automated delivery systems, check out our own Dan Maloney’s awesome Automate The Freight series.

[Thanks for the tip, Qes!]

18 thoughts on “Delivery Drone Aims To Make Package Handoffs Safer Than Ever

  1. Well, that’s kind of cool.

    For those of us in the US — 500g is a hair over a pound. IOW, anything that can go USPS First Class as a letter, flat or parcel — meaning 90%+ of eBay, both domestic and international — can be delivered with one of these things. Oh — and for the record, while us peasants (humor) are limited to 13oz at the PO before we hit Priority Mail or the similarly-priced-but-much-slower Standard Post / Select Post services, commercial use of First Class Parcel rates goes right up to 16oz. They did that a couple years ago… so /companies/ on eBay can send you up to a full pound of junk in one bubble mailer…

  2. It chops its way through!

    While it’s pretty cool all this drone delivery stuff I just can’t see th practical application.
    Just thinking about the amount of mail I get and then multiply that by the 50 or so houses in my street it just doesn’t seem viable.
    the parcel delivery service could be compared to the transport system, people instead of parcels. Where it is repeatedly shown that the most efficient way to move people is in a mass transit system (buss’ and trains) rather than personal transport (cars). The delivery system has been one of mass delivery and now they want to shift to the less efficient private.
    Either that or we have lied to and public transport is nit the efficient system our government s make it out to be !

    1. AMTRAK is largely subsidized… so yeah.

      And as far as buses they only make sense when they have a significant number of passengers largely empty or idle buses add much more to pollution than cars (which is what bio-diesel and other carbon neutral fueling methods help with). though it still doesn’t help with the amount of particulate pollution in the area.

  3. More “drone” PR nonsense !! Seriously – does anyone really believe these devices will replace the a-hole UPS or Fedex guy (or gal) ? (who is basically in a mini-warehouse – called a delivery truck – with large volume capacity to haul packages in – hence, economically fuel & personnel utilization efficient).

    Exactly what business model are these devices supposed to adhere to ? Let me guess – yaaay ! tech nerds want to play, so we’re going to buy a $1500 (est) device to deliver at most 1 lb ? and, it’s effectively single use – meaning RTLS (for NASA – for NASA fabboi’s – Return To Launch Site) after each delivery – then charge it… multiply it by the number required, multiplied by the manhours required to program navigational/course data, factor in losses (from folks like me – seeing one on my property, deciding to get out my M4/AR and using the flying critter for target practice – then again, I live out in the boonies…redneck, good ‘ole boy territory – one can extrapolate and suggest the ‘homies’ in ‘da hood… wouldn’t take so kindly to these new fangled contraptions either !

    Again, all this drone talk for delivery is nonsense… not practical in any sense of the word !

      1. Or legged… Boston Dynamics has demoed legged delivery and has done studies on how well thier robot could navigate to it’s employees homes. The prototype model is a bit terminator-ish.. but the one with cowls actually looks pretty futuristic/space age people would probably not mind them as much as buzzing drones.

    1. More Drone PR Nonsense is spot on.

      Drones makes no sense for mail delivery. None. What is shown here is a joke.

      In fact it’s much worse that traditional mail delivery. Since it forces people to be home to receive the package or risk it being stolen when it’s dropped off in the drive way. After all the drone can’t use the mail box So the mail is exposed.

      Not smart at all. People would sue the drone delivery service out of existence after a few mishaps.

      And the range is so limited as to be worthless. When the drone has a range of 20 miles and a payload capacity of 5 kilos and can deliver to multiple addresses in a single flight it will have some use. Provided it doesn’t require a geek at the other end to guide it.

      1. ” it forces people to be home to receive the package or risk it being stolen when it’s dropped off in the drive way.”

        Isn’t this also true of existing deliveries? When I’m expecting a package I have to wait around the house because USPS/Fedex/UPS will either leave the box in the rain in full view of the street, or leave a not saying they’ll try again sometime next week.

        “it’s much worse that traditional mail delivery.”

        Somehow I think that if all my mail was being delivered by drones, letters and greeting cards wouldn’t arrive torn open with the checks and gift cards missing.

        “Not smart at all. People would sue the drone delivery service out of existence after a few mishaps.”

        Namely? Like a drone running over a child because the minimum-wage driver has no training, is intoxicated, and is driving 2 tons of steel at highway speeds through a suburb? Again, I really trust an AI over most people, especially the people who get stuck doing the sweaty, unglamorous jobs everyone depends on.

        “And the range is so limited as to be worthless. When the drone has a range of 20 miles and a payload capacity of 5 kilos and can deliver to multiple addresses in a single flight it will have some use. Provided it doesn’t require a geek at the other end to guide it.”

        Who’s ordering 5 kilo packages for next-hour delivery while living in the countryside? That’s not who drone delivery is targeted to.

        By that logic, bicycle courier delivery is a horrible idea.

        People like you were the ones saying AI, 3D graphics, e-commerce, cellphones, Internet, commercial flight, computers, credit cards, television, radio, telegraphs, automobiles, printing presses, and every other major technology were impractical and useless. With your attitude, you really shouldn’t be on a news website dedicated to fun engineering projects and prototype technologies. You should be on a site dedicated to griping about how pointless technology is.

        Or, more accurately, you should be living in a cave tending your flock of goats, complaining about how pointless and impractical bronze is when your flint knives are sharper and your stone hammer is cheaper.

        1. Hey moron, modern technology is littered with remnants of ideas that were ECONOMICALLY unviable. The bottom line is about MONEY – it’s what separates us from lower order species. I’m a business owner – do you think I’m going to invest the time and money to deliver items at a cost (est) of 3000%+ , when I can have a minimum wage human ‘drone’ do it for hell of a lot less. The concept of drone delivery doesn’t even speak to the issue of airspace management – if one of these devices crashes and injures someone, the lawsuits are bound to happen (and rightly so). More risk to factor into insurance premiums and lost goods.

          Let’s recap the fundamental requirements for a workable delivery scenario.
          Airspace management and deconfliction (are we going to have a version of Jeppensen charts for drones? – is it going to permit RNP ops in crowded Class B airspace?)….will they fly VFR ? IFR ? oh wait do we have drone NOTAM’s? will they have transponders ? ADS-B ? …now how about usable payload capacity/range charts ? oh that’s right the little pos’s are pretty much worthless – I could probably strap my package onto a trained carrier pigeon instead.

          As the other folks have suggested – this is over-hyped PR dribble….nothing to see here, move along.

          1. Drone deliver Trucks + legged delivery robots are more likely… I think.

            Flying delivery just doesn’t make that much sense… especially if that airspace potentially has a better use (drone taxis which actually make a ton of sense in urban areas).

            Even if you had a large drone that delivered to the neighborhood level… it’s still more likely that legged delivery works better most places.

        2. “Who’s ordering 5 kilo packages for next-hour delivery while living in the countryside? That’s not who drone delivery is targeted to.”

          I think you’ve nailed it. Drone delivery is being developed by people who live in cities and are already used to instant-gratification services, it’s a perfect fit. It’s something you would see in cyberpunk fiction coming to life.

    2. I don’t think this would be used for your general delivery, but for some things like medication that is needed in remote parts it can be handy.
      This is in Switserland, which is mountainous and in some places houses are a bit off the route, so it might be handy there, in Germany DHL tried it for small parcels to islands, again a rare occurrence where it might be easier than other methods.
      And the mail also experimented in Australia, again a place where there might be remote single houses/farms that might be easier to reach with such directed effort.
      In the US you might also have such situations, think for instance Alaska where roads can be sparse or inaccessible part of the year.
      Or how about certain medication in a hurricane/earthquake hit areas?

      Of course Amazon on the other hand seems convinced it will be used massively for normal things, and they have a lot of resources. But I do tend to agree that it seems all a bit farfetched in terms of practicability for general use.

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