Amazon Drone Delivery is Vaporware!

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos let on that they’re looking to start delivery by Amazon Drones in the near future.

This is a very cool, futuristic idea. However there are a few problems that get simply skirted over:

GPS signal commonly fails in Cities

Large cities have very crowded radio frequencies, not to mention all the interference with the signals bouncing off buildings. This can be remedied with improved antenna, but it is not a perfect solution.

GPS does not account for buildings.

Even if you have a VERY accurate GPS system to match the user locations, GPS does not know necessarily where building, or other interference may be. He claimed it would be great for city delivery, but think about the process of dropping a package off on a porch, there’s typically no direct vertical path to a porch. A drone would have to drop down from altitude, navigate below obstacles (like a roof) in order to drop off the package.

It would probably require a Pilot

One way around the variability of where the package is delivered is to have a Drone pilot. The US drone fleet for instance uses pilots for many tasks including takeoff and landing (although fully autonomous systems are being used). You could have an autopilot system, but that would require a whole host of sensors and processors, significantly reducing the range of the Drone.

I the technical problems of automating a drone like this is on the same order of having a self driving car. There is the technology out there, but it is currently too heavy for small drones. Bottom line is the delivery area and method is HUGELY variable.

A 10 mile range is dreaming with current technology

Given this is a few years off with the FAA 2015 thing, but at current rate, flight times for quadcopters of this size, especially large Hexa- and Octacopter drones are currently only 30 minutes maximum. 10 Miles (which is 20 round trip) is going to require a much larger battery capacity, especially with a 10 pound payload (copters are very sensitive to weight).

Not to mention your delivery area would be influenced by local wind conditions.

Not to say it’s not doable, but the Amazon Drones would require some pretty big advancements in sensor weight and battery technology before it’s viable.

The 2015 FAA Drone Rules are not yet Known

It is still a huge unknown. Currently drones are technically limited to a 400 ft max altitude and must be flown by line of sight. Once 2015 hits it’s not that it will be drone free for all. The FAA at this point only has an IDEA what it needs to figure out how to regulate drones. Knowing the FAA there’s going to be a whole host of not only airworthy requirements for drones, but Sense and Avoid systems, secured communication hardware, battery redundancy, and flight traffic integration requirements that are not yet known.

Basically the FAA could sink the Amazon Drone system before it even gets off the ground.

 

Drones will at some point come into our every day lives, the advances in battery technology, sensors and flight controllers are seeing to that. But it’s not as simple of a problem as Bezos makes it seem.

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