Google's drone delivery program, unveiled


#1

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#2

I hope that my local hardware store gets one so that when I am up to my elbows in a project and realize that I need dohickey X, I don't need to stop and drive and search and get back home and get lazy...


#3

Crazy! This looks more like a long haul drone, but they are indeed testing city delivery with it.
I thought the software to hold it steady, drop a payload on a string, onto a target, and all in high winds was going to be difficult. But it sounds like that was an easy one compared to the dozens of other things they need to account for.

Lots of great topics in the article, thanks!


#4

I, for one, welcome our egg-bearing flying overlords.


#5

This is what I was wondering about:

When I asked how they planned to deal with power lines, which seem especially challenging to sense and avoid, the whole team demurred. “Remember: early days,” Roy intoned. “We’re not even close to that.”

There are some high tension power lines near my house that cross a small valley probably a hundred feet up. Around 30 years ago a helicopter crashed into them. They now have large spheres every 30 feet or so so pilots can see that something is there. The drones are going to need to be able to avoid things like that.


#6

Or worse, the part you need while in the middle of servicing your car.


#7

If I see these guys flying over my place, I'm starting a collection!


#8

So will the intention be that the drone will drop your package on your doorstep? I guess with phone tracking, they could just send the drone straight to you.


#9

Yeah but you know they would inadvertantly deliver your package to an innocent wedding party.


#10

This just invites an entirely new hobbyist sport of "drone-napping." It moves the old TV show, "Robot Wars", into the third dimension. Unless they design disposable packaging that is actually the drone itself, there's no way it will be cost effective or reliable. The lifespan of one of these things is no more than one or two deliveries.


#11

Until they run defensives. I start my collection with a small order, watching from the shrubbery as the egg descends. Just as it touches my stoop I snag the tether and pull in my very 1st drone.
Next time I'm tased by the tether, and it's able to wrap around my wrist. I'm lifted and flown to a pen.
Shoot them down and your coordinates are in the hands of the overlords.
How can this idea even be worth considering?!


#12

Doorstep delivery is problematic but I could see them starting out by having neighborhood delivery centers. Being able to set up and control the landing spot would make things much easier. Then use Uber or some other existing land based delivery system for the last few blocks/mile. Though it has been available for at least a month in soft launch mode, Amazon announced same day delivery on select items in Atlanta. Getting from their regional warehouse to something closer to the customer without fighting through traffic and at speeds higher than trucks are allowed would make same day delivery easier even if the drone itself doesn't land at the customer's house. The real trick is that it's the wild west for this type of technology. As someone who lives in a high rise in a dense population center, I'm not excited about having loud drones zipping by my window even if they are restricted to following existing streets.


#13

I would think that having customers deploy some sort of target would help, but that introduces that pesky human variable again


#14

Aren't these things getting outlawed almost as fast as they're being developed?

Not that we're sure if they'll even pan out at this point. Battery technology isn't in a place where this is a practical idea yet not even counting the navigational challenges that need to be overcome. It's entirely likely that they'll never be practical for more than a tiny niche.


#15

Really? To me it looks like the definite future. Battery technology will eventually catch up I would hope, and the laws against drones will just make way for regulations.

Not sure if you read the article, but there are real world applications where drones are already viable, for example international shipping routes or shipping between remote villages in Africa. The infrastructure for this is going to be there, and over enough time all the technology issues will be resolved. The key factor is figuring out how to make that shiney magical profit, and that is one thing humans all over the world have proven they are dedicated to.

But I agree a little bit with your thoughts, some of the drone ideas will never be made practical. But at the same time some new applications will emerge that arent even considered yet that just might change industries. (I love the drone/defibrillator idea, this could be further expanded into remote assessment and offering other treatment options).


#16

As for battery tech, I think this is just a mini-version of what would really be full-sized, fuel-burning cargo aircraft. There's talk about automating cargo aircraft in the near future. But I think there's a reason why they keep talking about using this technology in undeveloped portions of Africa. Not only are those areas lacking heavy air traffic and power lines, etc. that are difficult to avoid, and a smaller chance of dropping a dud drone on someone, but there wouldn't be the public opposition or contrary laws that would prevent its use in more developed areas.
I don't really think anyone's all that serious about door-to-door delivery, despite how it's presented. In the US there seem to be too many barriers to it - not least of which is that too high and the drones are in air traffic controlled airspace, but any lower and they're in private property airspace. There are already too many issues with privacy and drones as it is, despite the rarity of use.


#17

I imagine there were technical, legal, safety, and logistical problems facing the transcontinental railroad, the interstate system, the pyramids, the pananma canal, the interstate systems, electrical grids, sewer systems, water systems, etc.

In comparison, many of the challenges facing drones is going to be easy to overcome.


#18

No faster than a vacuum tube delivery system and much more susceptible to interception and weather.


#19

On the other hand, it can go just about anywhere without needing to build an infrastructure first.


#20

Just like the cars most people drive! Sadly, unless you live in the world of Futurama traveling by tube isn't likely to be an option any time soon either.

A ballistic package delivery gun, on the other hand…