The Future of Delivery Drones

The Future of Delivery Drones

You’ve seen it in lots of science fiction and television shows. Someone makes an order for food or perhaps something else, and an automated robot delivers it almost instantly. The idea sounds great, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great to order something online and have it delivered almost immediately?

You’ve probably experienced that almost “Christmas” like feeling of ordering something online and finally having it delivered. And chances are likely you were extra delighted when it arrived sooner that promised. It’s an amazing day and age of technology we live in. Some of the more populous cities have services that offer delivery of groceries or whatever in as little as an hour after ordering. Amazon’s service “Prime Instant” is an example of one of those services.

But now, Amazon has made science fiction reality. They’ve made their first ever delivery by drone, and the entire process took 13 minutes from the time the customer clicked “checkout” to the time they received the ordered items.

And this was not some commercial stunt by Amazon either. This is a service they intend to implement as soon as more tests are proven the service will work. It all happened in England, and you can read all about it here.

The process is amazingly simple, thanks to advancements in technology. At the Amazon fulfillment center in Cambridge, there are a line of drones sitting on a track. Once an order is received, an automated system (basically a robot arm with a gripping device) puts the desired items into a small compartment mounted on the drone. Currently the drones are capable of carrying up to five pounds, and the most astonishing part is there are no pilots.

Once the drone has the items, it moves along a track to a launch area and flies to the customer’s home. The customer is sent a text message stating his package has arrived and is waiting outside his front door. The customer opens the compartment, closes it up again, and sends a reply text that he has his items. The drone takes off and flies back to the Cambridge fulfillment center.

The most astonishing aspect of this entire process is that there are no humans involved. The drones are guided by GPS, the orders are fulfilled by automated devices, and the transactions are handled online. Only a few people oversee the process to make sure it is running smoothly.

Seems something like this would be amazing in America, right?

Of course. But sadly, it is unlikely you or I will ever be able to take advantage of such an amazing service (think of it: you’re doing the laundry, but are out of detergent, so you place an order online and your detergent arrives ten minutes later). Despite the fact Amazon is proving this is a safe and reliable system of delivery (the Cambridge center has been doing limited trial runs since December 7, 2016), there are just too many regulations and too much red tape in the U.S. despite the fact Amazon is a U.S. company.

Read here about how a U.S. drone startup attempted to make a delivery of donuts and coffee from a 7-11 in Las Vegas to a customer’s house. The delivery took so long and was so expensive; the startup has canceled its plans to develop the system further. The costs came from having to acquire permits and clearances and the fulfillment of too many regulations to make a go of it.

It’s unfortunate that bureaucracy would stand in the way of technological development.

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The future of drones in America is a bleak one. Too much bureaucracy stands in the way. But if you live in England - Delivery drones could soon be a reality.



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