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Drone delivery is approaching, but challenges remain

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Recent story in Bloomberg When Axios Show that not only is the potential of electric aviation already here, but as autonomy expands into the sky, it also expands and grows considerably. From these stories, we can see that there are challenges that must be overcome in order for drone delivery to become widespread.

Where is the drone now

The sad fact is that the technology is almost ready, but if you want to deliver something locally reliably and cheaply, it’s better to call the delivery driver via a popular app for that. .. I can’t switch.

Currently, drone licensees can only fly in the line of sight, or in the line of sight of a designated observer who can communicate with them. Not only should you be able to see the drone as a spot in the sky, but you should also be able to know which direction the drone is facing without using the drone’s telemetry or camera. Things like aerial inspections and real estate / architectural photography work well with these restrictions, but it’s very difficult to do things like deliveries within a quarter mile or so.

Why does the FAA impose these restrictions on drones? Pilots need to be able to “see and avoid” other aircraft. If you can’t see your drone and the sky around it, it’s basically impossible to take action to avoid a collision with an EMS or police helicopter.

The Bloomberg The story is not only what it is like to test drone delivery under current rules, but what efforts are underway to improve drone delivery regulation and technology. Give us an idea about.

Wing, a company owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company), uses drones for small-lot deliveries in Christiansburg, Virginia. In addition to commanding the captain at the launch / landing point, some observers are looking at the drone from above on a nearby hill. This ensures that FAA rules are always adhered to and that designated pilots can take over or force an emergency landing if things become potentially dangerous. However, drones are mostly automated.

This works for only one reason. That means you don’t have to share the sky with anyone in the community. While drone operators may appear to take pictures of homes and occasionally medical helicopters, hordes of autonomous drones run by various companies deliver and perform other commercial services autonomously. I will do it. Also, there are no eVTOL autonomous manned aircraft that behave as they did at some point.

Therefore, regulators need to understand how this all works without tragedy or injury becoming normal.

The Axios The story tells us about some drone delivery exams at the Walmart store. Delivery takes place at two stores in northwestern Arkansas, complete with a small foldable tower where observers can see the drone. Due to FAA restrictions, deliveries are only available within 1 mile of your Wal-Mart location.

However, they have proven to be still useful. Delivery costs $ 3.99, up to £ 5, and is available from 8am to 8pm. Wal-Mart partner DroneUp plans to offer more delivery options in the future in several states, including Florida, Virginia, Utah, Texas and Arizona.

How the FAA and NASA are moving towards the future here

The challenge is to create technologies that can safely integrate manually controlled drones, automated drones, eVTOL crafts, and anything else in the sky. Drones and eVTOL crafts are all manufactured by different companies running different hardware and software and all need to be able to communicate. Thousands or millions of aircraft quickly go beyond what is like air traffic control today, tracking a limited number of aircraft that humans have flown over a large area by other humans.

NASA and FAA are currently running computer simulations trying to understand what such a busy aerial environment would look like. This not only points out the technology requirements that must be met to manage it, but also provides insight into what the regulations that manage that busy world need to look like.

Currently, unmanned drones probably work below 400 feet, while air taxis and passenger drones range from 500 to 5,000 feet. Apart from cities with large airports, most traditional airliners and freighters try to operate over 5,000 feet to give space for taxis below. This at least allows for separation of air traffic and improves safety.

But even those isolated spaces can quickly become crowded. Different layers of ground distance need to be assigned to different types of craft, and virtual lanes need to be created and moved safely. Also, important delivery and public security jobs should be prioritized over those who want food and beer.

Another issue addressed in this article was whether it would be socially acceptable. When you’re having a party or work on Friday night, you already don’t want your hard-working neighbor to start a weed wacker at 7am. Do people accept that noisy propellers always pass overhead? Can they be quiet? Do some people hate to see what’s in the sky all the time?

It worked well in Christian Chambers and people really liked the availability of drone delivery options during the worst of pandemics, but how it works elsewhere is an open question.

Why this is important

It sounds easy to say, “Hook the box on the bottom of the drone and send it somewhere,” but there are a lot of things to consider before doing that. Is it safe? Is it affordable? Will people like it? Do you bother too many people? How can I make sure all the previous questions are correct?

Therefore, the test will continue and you will probably find the way to the correct answer. But you still have to wait.

Featured image by DJI.

 

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