Coffee Delivery Via Drone? Uvionix Wants To Make It Happen

nSKY Drone Delivery FI

Every once in awhile, some tidbits come to light that might be missed.  Far be it from me to skip over the unnoticed and the weird.

Yup, coffee delivery by drone or sandwiches or whatever.  That’s at $3 a delivery.  At least that’s what a new drone service is offering.  And the drones will travel up to 6 miles from the shop making the delivery.  Each trip will be a single delivery.  And that’s where I have a problem with the economics involved.

Several photographers I know use drones in their work.  Each costing over $1000.  Those are used in relatively drone free skies.  So, the fact that the propeller is exposed isn’t an issue.  That certainly wouldn’t work for a delivery service.  Even if an alternative cost no more than what photographers are now using, it’d take a lot of $3 deliveries just to pay for one drone.  So, I’d assume that vendors would be paying the delivery service a fee to use it.

A company called Uvionix is developing a drone delivery system.  Their diagram shows the basics of what’s involved:nSKY_process_schematic_n

  1. The customer places their order via an app (top of diagram), including inputting a landing spot.
  2. The information goes to a control center (left), which notifies the vendor.
  3. The vendor takes a drone out of the rack (bottom), loads the order, and the drone takes off.
  4. The control center handles the drone till it nears the customer location.
  5. A human co-pilot (right) takes over and lands the drone.

You may notice the drone in the center.  The two features you can easily notice are that the propeller is protected and, unlike the Amazon drones we’ve seen pictured, the load goes in that center piece on top.  That last could be interesting for the economics of a delivery service or the stores it services.  The holder isn’t really huge, so there’s a limit to what it can carry.  This seems to be a well thought out system, but we’ll be watching how this plays out economically.

Then, there’s safety involved.  Consider a bunch of drones, flying from different stores, possibly flown by different services.  That could create traffic jams worse than the outer loop of the Baltimore Beltway at morning rush hour, and a need for the FAA to step in.  ZDNet has this to say:

All of this is dependent on the FAA giving the green light to urban drone delivery, which is likely to happen at some point, though no one quite knows when. The agency has allowed a few early tests, and NASA is currently working on a UAV air traffic control system in partnership with the FAA. The system is considered a necessary tool for the safe use of drones in dense city environments.

The rules may be in place by this summer.  The flight tracking may take extra electronics on the drones.  And I’d picture an added air traffic controller staff.  Or do we call them “drone traffic controllers?”  Either way, I suspect the added electronics and human controllers will add to any initial setup and operating costs.  But, since we’re in the infancy of this field, I’m sure that’ll be worked out.

nSKY-instant-delivery-5_medWhat comes to mind for end customers is that person who is too lazy to go out to the store.  But there are those who may be working on a tight deadline and can’t go out for lunch.  How about someone who isn’t able to get out often and needs a prescription filled or refilled?  In either case, being able to use a smartphone menu like the one to the left or a form would make both easy.

Certainly there will be uses for emergency services.  In fact, forest services are using drones to monitor forest fires.  And there’s already been some air space conflict with broadcast news drones.  There’s a lot to be worked out, but also tons of potential.  The Uvionix system is supposed to be ready by the second quarter of 2017.  Are you as excited about the possibilties as I am?

  Source: ZDNet
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