AR Quad Copters – Not The Future Delivery Boy
Over the weekend a buddy of mine was telling me how Amazon are going to be delivering packages via pilotless quad copters from early next year.
The first time I heard about Amazon’s plans for 30 minute deliveries by quad copter was around April last year whereupon I immediately dismissed Amazon Prime Air as an April fool’s joke. But it seems the joke is refusing to die. While the fact or fiction debate still rages, we might as well mention that Dominos are also looking at drones as the perfect pizza delivery system and according to at least one quote, AR drone deliveries are going to become a $90 billion business in 10 years. I’m still calling bull crap on this one, here are some reasons why:
There is no way the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) or Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) depending on your location are going to allow unmanned aircraft to fly over cities. It isn’t going to happen. But you’re missing the point, drones are for rural areas you cry. That may be, but Amazon and Dominos don’t have distribution centres in the middle of nowhere on the off chance that ‘Bobby Joe’ 3 fields over places an order. They are conveniently located close to, or in cities with good transport links.
We live in world where even a cup of coffee is required to contain a warning to inform stupid people that the cup contains something hot. Peanuts have warnings to inform that the bag may contain nuts and Superman costumes remind the wearer that the costume doesn’t actually enable them to fly . Many of these ‘warnings’ have been placed there because of expensive and very successful lawsuits. You can see the headlines now, “Pizza falls from sky, New York man sues Dominos for millions”.
What happens when your drone arrives minus your item which crashed through a car window screen? It has your address on the package, good luck explaining to very a angry 6.4 body builder why you damaged his car. What happens when little Suzy from next door tries to grab the drone as its landing and loses a couple of fingers in the process. There is world of lawsuits just waiting to happen.
Automatically navigating a drone to a destination in a rural area is a challenge. See that tree branch? No, neither did the drone. In a populated area, see that washing line? What about the drone taking a short cut across the runway. There are countless reasons why a drone wouldn’t arrive at its destination due to some unforeseen mishap along the way.
Drones flying around with potentially valuable items would be an irresistible target for criminals. Knock one out the sky and you have won a mystery prize. Damn another meat feast pizza, never mind, another drone will be along shortly. Here’s hoping for a tablet.
I played around with the Parrot AR Drone last year. It’s a lot of fun but the battery is only 30 minutes and the higher it fly’s the more unstable it becomes. No doubt there is a world of difference between a ‘delivery system’ and a Parrot but they still suffer from the same inherent problems. Decent battery to get to and from its location, enough stability to fly over obstacles. 30 minutes would easily get you from one side of London to the other, shame the Amazon distribution centre is at least 40 minutes away just to get to London.
Finally, while I could probably write all day on the subject of while AR drones won’t be delivering your post or pizza anytime soon, you still have to pay someone to pilot, recharge and drive around looking for crashed units. If you need something in 30 minutes (other than a pizza) take a look at your local high-street. For now, AR drone delivery systems are the April Fool’s joke that keep on giving.
Agree or disagree?
Dominos AR Drone