Delivery Drone, Thesis Paper Example
Words: 2708Thesis Paper
Our personal lives are greatly dependent on technology and its continued development. Technology, as we know it, has advanced over the years and has also changed the way we live and make purchase decisions. Technology also influences how we communicate, travel, learn, and interact. Many different changes have been the result of continuous technological advancements, which is facilitated by consumer demands and lifestyle changes. Additionally, demand advances in technology is also high. Almost everything we use is a product of innovation. Technological advancements help organizations and businesses increase their bottom lines by saving time and production costs, and these advancements are managed to gain competitive advantage in the market.
With today’s continuing technological advancements comes the emergence of new technologies such as the delivery drone, also called an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or a parcelcopter. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, drones are controlled without the presence of a human pilot onboard. They are remotely controlled. These are currently in testing for use as delivery drones to transport mail, packages, goods, food, and medicine (ICAO, 2011). Fortune.com reports that a federally approved drone delivery was successful for delivering medical supplies to a health clinic in Virginia. The clinic is in a rural area. The drone delivery company is a startup called Flirtey, and it had FAA approval to make the delivery via its unmanned aircraft. The mission was a joint venture with Virginia Tech University, NASA, Virginian health care organizations, and Flirtey. The rural area in Virginia is a poverty-stricken area and getting medical supplies to the area is difficult due to its isolated location. The region in Virginia is one of six approved locations by the FAA to facilitate drone research and testing (Vanian, 2015). This is significant to note because, as will be discussed below, other companies have been faced with challenges to gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly or test fly commercial drones in national airspace. This paper describes drones and how they operate as well as discusses delivery companies and their drone projects. Additionally, benefits and obstacles faced by these companies is discussed with a conclusion to follow.
Parcelcopter / Quadcopter (Drone) Operations
How Do Quadcopters Work?
Electronics Weekly reports that quadcopters are sometimes referred to as flying robots, and these robots seem to be autonomous. The concept behind the idea is that robots could one day replace humans in important roles in search and rescue efforts or even substitute in dangerous environments. Quadcopters have been programmed by technology teams to do things such as learn about its environment and surroundings run by software and the use of forward-facing cameras mounted onto the machines. Researchers explain that these quadcopter robots create 3D maps of what’s around them and sensors pick up ultrasonic and barometric data. This allows the robot to pick up on additional clues about its environment. These robots can go easily into places where humans cannot go or complete tasks more efficiently than humans, such as deliver packages through the air (EW, 2014). There are a few companies who are researching this technology for the purpose of making drone deliveries to their customers.
One of the first companies to use delivery drone technology is DHL Parcel that launched drone deliveries of goods and emergency medicines to the island of Juist on the North Sea. This is significant because it is a first. The drone was set to follow a specific restricted flight path in a designated flight area, which was authorized by local and federal German officials. The drone flight only covered a distance of 12 kilometers from one Rhine River bank to another; however, it was successful. This research project has set the stage for delivery options in the future when goods and medicines need to be delivered to remote areas (DHL, 2014).
The DHL drone is a quadcopter that can reach a travel speed of 18 meters per second and can fly up to 50 meters high, depending on the speed of the wind. Additionally, it weighs under 5 kilograms and can carry a load weighing up to 1.2 kilograms. The drone is powered by four propellers and is steered remotely in any direction by controlling the speed of the power units. The drone is monitored constantly to ensure safety and efficient operations while in flight. The island of Juist uses the drones when the availability of flights and ferries is limited to deliver medications and other goods (DHL, 2014).
Other companies exploring the use of delivery drones include Google and Amazon, which have tested delivery drones. However, they have been receiving push-back from the FAA regarding approval to test their drones for real-time deliveries. It is reported that drone regulations mandated by the FAA are too strict and only serve to place a damper on unmanned aircraft innovation and technological advancement (Vanian, 2015).
Google has even acquired a mechanical drone manufacturer to enhance their business plans to use drones to deliver the Internet to remote areas of the world, by using the drones to transmit Internet signals. The drone manufacturer purchased by Google is an American company named Titan Aerospace, and it produces solar powered drones. This would eliminate the cost of laying down broadband Internet cables for thousands of miles and would be feasible via Google’s atmospheric satellites. This effort would be instrumental in aiding disaster relief and solving problems with environmental damage such as deforestation (Ahmed, 2014).
According to Warwick, Google is interested in becoming a force in the field of aerospace, as it is heavy into research regarding unmanned aircraft for delivering goods. Google’s drone projct is called Project Wing, which is purposed to deliver goods by unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in a broad range of scenarios. Google launched a real-world trial run of Project Wing approximately 100 miles inland from Brisbane in Australia in August 2014. The trial included at least 30 flights with the UAS prototype making deliveries of various small products such as dog treats and cattle vaccines to farmers. Distances ranged to around 1 kilometer. The drones used for Project Wing are hybrid air vehicles with 5 feet flying wings to facilitate fast-forward flying. Additionally, the drones are equipped with quad roters designed for tailsitting and they are capable of hovering 40-60 meters off the ground when making the deliveries (Warwick, 2014). According to Google, research will continue in the United States, which will include its future focus on the following: “detect-and-avoid capability, contingency management, precision navigation, reducing noise and developing an end-to-end delivery system” (Warwick, 2014).
It is important to note that this undertaking is not without its obstacles. One of which is the ban on commercial unmanned aircraft by the FAA. This ban includes the prohibition of test flights being flown in national airspace. This means that Google must test its drones indoors or overseas. This is a hurdle for the company’s initiatives in this area. However, Google has filed petitions to be able to test its drones outside the restricted areas to enhance research on such features as “agility, flight duration, redundancy and sense-and-avoid sensors and algorithms” (Warwick, 2014). The company is seeking to be able to test its delivery drones away from airports and populated areas on company property. Google’s UAS weighs less than 55 pounds and is restricted to flying under 400 feet and is flown in sight of the operator, which complies with model aircraft guidelines. To facilitate the effort, Google is leveraging its financial and intellectual resources as well as its connections with the public and politicians to combat some of the barriers to research to this transformational aerospace technology (Warwick, 2014).
Amazon is also developing its unmanned aircraft systems for package delivery called Prime Air. However, the company has also run into some hurdles with the FAA and has been regulated to using the six designated unmanned aircraft systems testing sites stipulated by the FAA. Amazon also has also applied for “an experimental-category airworthiness certificate for its small unmanned aircraft” (Warwick, 2014).
Prime Air is slated to be Amazon’s delivery system for its products and the company is the developer of multicolor miniature unmanned air vehicle technology, which is proposed to utilize GPS to fly packages to its customers autonomously, and this is planned for delivery within 30 minutes of the customers’ orders. This is provided the order does not weigh more than 5 pounds (which is 86% of orders sold by Amazon) and its delivery location is within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon fulfillment center (Pandit & Poojari, 2014).
Currently, Prime Air is still in the research and development stage but is making progress, as Amazon officials state, it will be at least a few years before the technology is advanced enough to go mainstream, and for the Federal Aviation Administration to develop its rules and regulations regarding the technology. However, regulatory approval is not the only concern that must be considered before the drones are taken to the mainstream. Challenges such as developing an efficient collision avoidance system, which is significant because the drones will meet obstacles along the way such as buildings, birds, or people throwing things at it. Amazon must consider the liability here and how deliveries will be insured. Additionally, technical challenges must be dealt with, such as how the drones’ batteries will be recharged and how to tell when they need servicing. Amazon must also consider how it will deal with its competition, which is FedEx, DHL, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service. In addition, Amazon is petitioning for dedicated airspace for its drones (Mayerowitz, 2013).
Despite challenges, Amazon has been granted certification for permission to legally test its Prime Air drones. The certificate is the same type of certificate given to private pilots to fly a Cessna. This is something that drone hobbyists do not have. The certificate is restrictive in that it only allows the company to fly its drones under 400 feet and in view of their operators, which defeats the purpose of testing home deliveries. Amazon has partnered with technology companies and experts to develop the Small UAV Coalition to lobby for educating lawmakers on the drones and their potential (Mac, 2015). Amazon and other organizations that are pro-drone, including the Small UAV Coalition have actively pursued persuading the FAA to overturn some of its restrictions and have submitted thousands of documents regarding making changes to regulations the administration should make to facilitate this effort. Currently, the regulations require Amazon and other such companies to stifle making drone deliveries for now. The stipulations propose that a company that wants to complete drone flight tests can only do so during daylight hours and only if the aircraft remains in full view by its operator. In addition, any company testing drones must only fly them below 500 feet. This means that Amazon, Google and other companies should not expect permission to launch commercial drone operations for deliveries until all regulations are finalized (Vanian, 2015).
Benefits and Obstacles for Drones
According to Pandit and Poojari, the concept of delivery drones has a few strengths associated with it for companies using them. These strengths include ensuring on-time deliveries to customers, limited competition in the market, high time effectiveness, and high barriers to entry for competition. Additionally, companies using drone technology, such as Amazon and Google, have opportunities such as continuous business expansion, gaining additional customers, leveraging an untapped market, and building affiliate relationships with industry-related vendors (Pandit & Poojari, 2014). These are some of the benefits of companies using drone technology. However, obstacles exist that companies should consider. Implementing delivery drone systems can be cause for concern regarding such aspects as unclear return on investment for companies, weather issues, theft, vandalism, problems with range, and location landings. These aspects of drone usage can pose threats to the companies using them, as well as regulatory changes, the threat of new entrants into the industry, and the threat of substitute products. These challenges are significant to note so that obstacles may be dealt with and overcome (Pandit & Poojari, 2014). The SWOT Analysis below illustrates the benefits and obstacles associated with drone companies.
This paper has described delivery drones and how they operate. Additionally, delivery companies such as DHL, Google, and Amazon and their drone projects have been discussed and analyzed. Furthermore, the benefits and obstacles faced by these companies has been examined. Delivery drones are a definite part of future technological advancements in the way we will do business. To summarize, drones are essentially unmanned aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This means that they are flying robots, as highlighted above. Drone aircraft can be controlled remotely or they can be programmed to fly autonomously via flight plans controlled by software embedded into their systems that work in conjunction with GPS technology. UAVs were initially only associated with military operations, but are now being researched for other uses, such as package delivery.
These unmanned aircraft have been considered for commercial applications in package delivery. This has facilitiated companies like Amazon and Google to announce plans to use drones to deliver packages to customers. Additionally, as mentioned abobe, the FAA is in the process of developing regulatory guidelines for unmanned aircraft drone operations.
Amazon is one of the first to embrace this new technology of drone delivery. Bezos admitted that it sounds like science fiction, but it is however, very real. Amazon’s CEO reports that 86% of products on Amazon’s site will be delivered to customers by a drone in the near future. And this will be done within 30 minutes of the customer’s order. Additionally, the drones will be fully automated flying robots, originating from an Amazon fulfillment center. This is an example of how drone delivery technology will work.
Another significant aspect of Amazon’s efforts in this endeavor is its commitment to ensuring the safety of its delivery drones, by proposing that it be given dedicated airspace for the drones, which would be 200-400 feet from the ground. The 100 feet above this dedicated Amazon drone airspace would serve as a no-fly zone to buffer the space between Amazon drones and commerical aircraft. The safety of the drones would require that they be properly equipped with advanced GPS systems to manage their locations in relation to other drones. Additionally, the drones would need reliable Internet connections for communications maintenance with the GPS data. The drones would also need to be equipped with online flight planning to predict their flight paths and the drones would need to have the capability of collaborating with other drones to avoid collisions. Finally, the drones would need sensors so that they would be able to avoid other obstacles such as birds, cables, and buildings (Mac, 2015).
One thing is for sure and that is autonomous delivery drones could cut energy costs and would help consumers save money from not having to go to the store. This is a powerful concept and it means that not only are deliveries possible, but people could also use the same concept for returns by drone as well. This could mean a huge shift in consumer buying habits. Drones would make delivery faster and more efficient. Additionally, another benefit of delivery drones is that customers could schedule deliveries around the clock and not have to worry about waiting for delivery drivers and packages being stolen off their porches.
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