1) What are delivery drones?
A delivery drone is an unpiloted aerial vehicle that is used in transporting packages, med kits and other goods. Delivery drones are being used in many various different fields and domains, such as:
– Healthcare: an unmanned aircraft can easily transport and retrieve medicines and vaccines into and out of inaccessible regions. In the year 2014, A Dutch-based student created a prototype Ambulance drone which was able to rapidly deliver defibrillators to heart attack victims within precious lifesaving minutes.
– Food delivery: there have been prototypes of drones that are able to deliver food, including Tacocopter, which is a drone that is capable of delivering tacos. In the year 2017 the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Chicago, IL used drones to deliver cocktails and drinks to the tables of guests.
– Postal deliveries: With the growing use of drones in e-commerce, different postal companies from different countries such as Australia, Germany, and Singapore are using them in order to test the feasibility and profitability of their services.
2) Some famous delivery drones and their capacity
There are many famous drones that are being used for delivery purposes such as:
- Mercedes Benz: Mercedes Benz teamed up with e-commerce startup Matternet and siroop to introduce to the media a delivery drone. Concerning the flying technicalities and basic functions, this drone basically works similar to any other drone for that matter; however, since this drone is made for delivery purposes, it has other features and functions. The drone knows where to go by reading the destination information using a QR code on the package. The Mercedes Benz delivery drone can reach to a speed up to 70 Km/h for up to 20 Km.
- Zipline: Zipline is a Californian startup that made delivery drones in Rwanda in October 2016; however; lately they have developed a new type of drones that is believed to be the fastest delivery drone ever. This type of drone can reach to a speed up to 121 Km/h. It can fly 160 Km in one trip and can carry 1.75 kg of cargo. Regular delivery drones can deliver and transport around 50 deliveries per day; however, the new Zipline drone can triple that amount.
3) How far can drones deliver a package?
To answer this question, we need to first understand the main components of a drone and the laws and regulation surrounding it. First of all, it is important to know that according to the FAA (the federal aviation administration) the height limit of flying drones is 0.1524 Km and the speed limit is around 160 Km/h. So no matter how fast or advanced a drone can be, it is not allowed to go faster than that. One of the most crucial components of a drone is its battery, most batteries can last between 10 to 20 minutes, and the average speed for a drone is from 50 to 100 Km/h, therefore the average distance that a drone can cover in order to deliver a package is around 20 Km.
4) Security issues with delivery drones
There are many problems related to drones and their use such as laws, regulations, manufacturing. However, it is safe to say that the most important one out of all is the security issues.
There are many problems relating to the safety of the drone and the package itself such as:
- The drone may be hijacked by a devious hacker and both the drone and the package is lost and stolen
- There is always a problem of people actually shooting a delivery drone down by mistaking it as a spying device or any other dangerous aircraft thus leading to the ruining of the delivery.
- Kids may also throw rocks at flying by drone, simply because it is there. It is very hard to convince a bored kid not to throw rocks at flying objects. The result caused by the hitting of the rock on the surface of the drone may cause it to fall.
- Drones may simply fall from the sky due to mechanical faults.
- Delivery Drones are also exposed to other weather-related problems such as, extreme wind, or heavy rain which can either destroy the drone or the package itself.
- A battery with 10-20 minutes of working time may sometimes not be ideal for delivering a package that is slightly further than 20 Km because it may cause the drone to fall due to battery life limit.
Due to all of these problems, drone companies have created and found ways into protecting their drones and assuring security to the package:
- Some companies are applying the hydrophobic coating which is a technology allowing a drone to fly in wet conditions and rainy environment.
- Instead of using a communication system that is based on WIFI, companies are using private networks that offer several layers of encryption in order to maximize drone security and limit data hacking.
- By using a customized software, a company can create a drone flight path which ensures that the drone will be able to deliver the package without having to worry about the battery not lasting long enough.
- Companies are also investing a considerable amount of money and time into creating solutions that will prevent strong crashes of drones by increasing the lifetime of the battery and installing landing pads.
Some may argue that delivery drones will not make it in the future due to the challenges that they are facing, and it is true that these flying vehicles have their own share of disadvantages and challenges. However, they also have lots of pros and advantages that outweigh the cons but most importantly they have great potential. Today, many great companies such as domino Pizza, Amazon, Alibaba and many others are investing their time and money in order to use delivery drones for their package delivery activities.