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Why Delivery Drones Are Not Ready For the Retail Industry

Why Delivery Drones Are Not Ready For the Retail Industry

Amazon’s idea of delivery drones stole the headlines as soon as the company announced that it would use them to deliver goods in the future. This sparked a great deal of interest in the idea of UAV businesses which is gaining popularity. Yet unfortunately, US and European Air Space currently has regulations covering the use

Amazon’s idea of delivery drones stole the headlines as soon as the company announced that it would use them to deliver goods in the future. This sparked a great deal of interest in the idea of UAV businesses which is gaining popularity.

Yet unfortunately, US and European Air Space currently has regulations covering the use of drones for commercial applications but civilian air space is expected to be opened up to all kinds of drones in the US by 2015 and in Europe by 2016. For use for retail distribution and shopping, however, drones need to have certain enhancements.

As an engineer, I get excited by this challenge and believe the developer community will soon address many of the issues making UAV deliveries a realistic possibility in the near future. In fact, my hope is that they will soon figure out a way for the drones to be able to deliver products without being damaged or stolen. Here are some ideas that are under consideration.

  • Delivery to a Central Secure Local Point: We already have the infrastructure with US Post offices all over the country in even the most rural areas. Services could start with deliveries to the post office for pick-up. We all know the USPS needs some innovative ideas to rebuild that business. Maybe hospitals and CVS and Walgreens become hubs as well.
  • Onboard Internet Connectivity: A Wi-Fi module within the delivery drones would be ideal but would lose connection with the user once the drone was out of internet range. Clearly we need some creative solutions – what are your ideas?
  • GSM Modules: These could be used for inter-city or even inter-country deliveries. A GSM module would allow the owner to be connected to the delivery drone, to monitor its activity through a camera mounted on the drone, and to trip off the drone in case of an anomaly.
  • Integrated Anti-theft Tripping Mechanism: An integrated system functioning through a tripping mechanism would disable the drone and make it useless. Another security measure could be the use of built in GPS navigation inside the delivery drone to track it in case of theft.

There are several technology issues to be address, but this much is clear: the major hurdle about which we need all be concerned is government regulation. However, assuming regulations open the way for these types of businesses and that drone designers start to incorporate some of this functionality, we may be receiving pizza and groceries by air in no time!

Image via: Gabriel Garcia Marengo

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