To make it in America, drone delivery will have to master a niche demand. Most of America that has customers is already well-served by logistics. The Postal Service can carry most things at low cost, and for faster shipping, retailers like Amazon will use shipping companies like FedEx or UPS. To make it in America, drones need to deliver a cargo within the same day, and because drones can only carry so much, they need to make sure they’re carrying a cargo that is both tiny and important. So what is it, exactly, that drones could deliver better, faster than anything else?
Dubai is a city in a desert on the edge of the future. Obscenely wealthy and home to the world’s tallest building, the emirate combines modern technology with an aristocrat’s glee in flaunting wealth. Dubai already hasjetpack stuntmen in the sky, camera-strapped eagle videographers on the buildings, and police in Lamborghinis on the ground. How does a city improve upon that? With a drone grand prix, offering a $1 million in prizes, of course.
Driving is a chore. Sure, there are stretches of roads that are pleasant, and there are cars so slick that piloting them feels both graceful and powerful, but most of the time, commuting in traffic and controlling a machine is a tedious task. Etos, a concept car from Swiss automaker Rinspeed, wants drivers to enjoy the experience of travel again. To that end, their car has a landing pad for a drone on the back, so drivers can fly around while they’re on the road.
Sometimes, the best things are those that can be easily left behind. For rescue missions, whether battlefield or natural disaster, DARPA envisions using lightweight, cheap, and expendable single-use drones that can carry supplies to those in need and, once their mission is complete, fall apart into disposable uselessness. Building on VAPR, which wanted electronics that fell apart on command or when introduced to water, DARPA’s new ICARUS program reaches for the sky and hopes to fall apart before it gets there.
For many, drone delivery was a novelty until Amazon jumped into the game. With a much-hyped concept video, Amazon provided a straightforward image of robot postmen, bringing packages to customers on demand. Amazon filed the patent for the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Delivery System” last September, but the text of it was recently made public at the end of April, showing the nuts and bolts of the scheme.
Bought a drone, and want to fly it legally, but have no idea where to do that? A new map created by drone hobbyists and enthusiasts aims to be an atlas, laying out the legal landscape for piloting unmanned vehicles.