Parcelcopter Drone Project Delivers In Rough Terrain

It’s a known fact that the last mile is also the longest mile in the parcel delivery service. The further removed from a hub city a delivery location is, the more required stops in between. Every part of the process slows to a glacial pace when the drop-off spot is inaccessible by land or air. Now apply this in the case of a medical emergency, and timing is everything.

Enter the joint project between [DHL and Wingcopter] dubbed Parcelcopter 4.0. The half plane, half helicopter drone design was recently tested over a six month period by making medical supply drops to Ukerewe island located in the middle of Lake Victoria. The remote island is home to roughly 400,000 people and many areas around the isle remain out of reach to traditional delivery vehicles. The island’s closest southern port is separated from mainland Tanzania by a four hour trip by barge and over six hours by road which makes drone delivery a potentially life saving option.

The Wingcopter drone itself is capable of vertical take off and landing (see 1:53 in the video below) while holding up to 9 lbs inside the thermally insulated cargo hold on the underside of the craft. It is controlled via 3G and/or 4G LTE, and according to the manufacturer website is capable of flying up to 60 miles on a single charge. Tests showed the drone made the nearly 40 mile trip across Lake Victoria in an average of 40 minutes.

It is interesting to see a real world commercial application seemingly ready to meet the needs of a vastly under served community. There are certainly many tests left to go before drone delivery goes into wider use, but thanks to this project the Parcelcopter 4.0 is 1400 air miles closer to that future.

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Autonomous Delivery: Your Impulse Buys Will Still Be Safe

I heard a “Year in Review” program the other day on NPR with a BBC World Service panel discussion of what’s ahead for 2017. One prediction was that UAV delivery of packages would be commonplace this year, and as proof the commentator reported that Amazon had already had a successful test in the UK. But he expressed skepticism that it would ever be possible in the USA, where he said that “the first drone that goes over somebody’s property will be shot down and the goods will be taken.”

He seemed quite sincere about his comment, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was only joking to make a point, not actually grotesquely ignorant about the limitations of firearms or being snarky about gun owners in the US. Either way, he brings up a good point: when autonomous parcel delivery is commonplace, who will make sure goods get to the intended recipient?

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Google[x]’s Project Wing

wing

Autonomous delivery is the way of the future. Soon, flocks of flying hover crafts will glide through the air like acrobatic birds of flight bringing home items to those who need them. Whether those objects be food, or electronics, or clothes, pretty much anything under the weight limit of these devices can be sent to people anywhere nearby.

Now, Google has stepped into the ring saying that they are interested in delivering products to individuals in the next few years through an innovation they are calling Project Wing. It aspires to reduce the friction of moving things around. Google released a video introducing the idea which shows a man calling up a service asking for some food for his dog. Instantly, a small delivery vehicle took off from the ground and flew to the intended destination dropping off a package containing delicious doggy treats.

Google clearly states in the video that this type of system is still years away from a readily available consumer product, but it is the first prototype that the company wants to stand behind. Google has marketed the design pretty well so far, and the musical use of [Norman Greenbaum]’s classic 1969 rock song ‘Spirit in the Sky’ was an obvious, yet totally awesome addition to the video. We are curious how services similar to this will affect postal delivery jobs in the future, and also what the legal ramifications will be, but all that information will surely be discussed very soon. In the meantime though, Google has released an interest form that will take the names and emails of those who would like to partner with them in an effort to bring autonomous product delivery to the world.

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