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Transportation Network Technology

DRONENET: An Internet of Drones 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the robot-bring-me-a-sammich dept.
In a series of posts on his blog, military theorist John Robb outlines what he thinks will be the next big thing — "as big as the internet," as he puts it. It's DRONENET: an internet of drones to be used as an automated delivery service. The drones themselves would require no futuristic technology. Modern quadrotor drones are available today for a few hundred dollars, and drone usage would be shared across an open, decentralized network. Robb estimates the cost for a typical delivery at about $0.25 every 10 miles, and points out that the drones would fit well alongside many ubiquitous technologies; the drone network shares obvious parallels with the internet, the drones would use GPS already-common GPS navigation, and the industry would mesh well with the open source hardware/software community. Finally, Robb talks about the standards required for building the DRONENET: "Simple rules for drone weight, dimensions, service ceiling, and speed. Simple rules for battery swap and recharging (from battery type, dimension, etc.). Simple rules for package containers. Simple rules for the dimensions and capabilities of landing pads. ... Decentralized database and transaction system for coordinating the network. Rules for announcing a landing pad (information from GPS location and services provided) to the network. Rules for announcing a drone to the network (from altitude to speed to direction to destination). Cargo announcement to the network, weight, and routing (think: DNS routing). A simple system for allocating costs and benefits (a commercial overlay). This commercial system should handle everything from the costs of recharging a drone and/or swapping a battery to drone use."
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DRONENET: An Internet of Drones

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  • by fantomas (94850) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @01:59PM (#42488749)

    Good luck on persuading the authorities in New York, London, Paris etc that you want to fill the urban airspace with drones. How will you manage 'collision detection' in its very real and physical form if this becomes popular and there are large numbers flying around? How will they talk to other air traffic (e.g. police / ambulance helicopters)? Will they be able to re-route if emergency services wish to land rapidly? How about environmental lovers concerned about the effect they'll have on local birdlife?

    I guess it is manageable but a> you'll need some fine control systems to be built b> you'll have to persuade the public that lots of little buzzing machines are a good thing and not annoying and c>you're insured against the occasional fail (if you have "millions" operating, I expect some will fall out of the sky, 5kg dropping from 100m in the air onto a city crowd?)

  • Re:not feasible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2013 @02:03PM (#42488783)

    current batteries only allow for ~~ 15 minute flights on multirotors, and this diminishes significantly as you add weight. You may be able to deliver small bags of weed or something a mile or two away

    Great for drug dealers! Drone comes with money, replace money with drugs, and off it goes!

    If the cops get it, well, who are they going to bust?

    Terrorists will use this too for bombs and to crash these into the engine intakes of jet liners.

    Then I see child pornographers using this technology to spy on little kids.

    And of course, people will use this to spy on politicians.

    I think I've outlined the major arguments that will cause these things to be so regulated that the costs will be prohibitive - in the US.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @02:18PM (#42488869) Journal

    At least this idea isn't new in trying to use alternative means then road haulage to deliver packages. In The Hague the horse and cart was RE-introduced (we are not that backward here) to deliver packages in a shopping street because it looked nice. In Amsterdam packages can also be delivered by the canal to avoid the roads. These are old techs, re-introduced. But newer versions are in Utrecht were shops have their good delivered by large trucks to a central location from which they are then distributed to the actual shop by small electric carts pulling small wagons, this to avoid large trucks blocking the roads which are one way streets mostly (no way to pass a parked truck). The bike messenger is a feature of many a large city for a long time now.

    A reverse idea is in place in some crowded areas were waste is sucked into the ground and away to be collected in a central area.

    These ideas are all nice BUT they lack the flexibility that the motor car has brought to our world. I can send packages by truck that would kill a bike rider, that same truck can also carry a single envelope to its destination. The only reason to use alternatives that are never as flexible, are because trucks take up a LOT of space. But you also already need the roads anyway so it is only in the most crowded areas that alternatives spring up.

    Now... what is it about inner cities that makes me worry about aerial delivery by small drones. Massive buildings of wildly varying heights which already make it an adventure to cycle or even walk, let alone fly an underpowered drone carrying god knows what. As a mailman one Christmas, I delivered bottles of mercury to a dentist. Dropping out of bag, it did no harm, dropping from 100 meters...

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but ambulance helicopters do NOT land between two high-rises in NY do they? One cliff is already dangerous enough I would think. What makes you think that a far smaller device, flown by cheap electronics or an operator who connection might or might not work (again, inner cities are not known for their un-interrupted radio signals, for that matter, high-rises mess with GPS too).

    This idea doesn't need new tech? I know of no drone tech that allows it to operate on its own in complex 3d environments. Military drones have an operator and fly in clear skies and land and take of in wide open areas. Search youtube for remote controlled airplanes and SEE the "state of the art" tech. Especially the landings. Whooo! I want THAT going on all around me. There is a reason these people operate on remote fields with rules like "NEVER FLY TOWARDS A PERSON" (often broken but only with other members of the pack).

    It is a nice idea, small drones flying around carrying packages but it just isn't practical for a long time until AI's are a LOT better, this isn't just about landing a 747 by autopilot were the auto pilot doesn'thave to think but just follow the math rules programmed into it. An AI drone needs to fly around people, unknown obstructions, unpredictable weather and all that with a cargo shape/weight behavior that is unpredictable. Box with weights rolling around inside it, good luck stablizing that AND dealing with a sudden gust of wind.

    Seriously, look at youtube and the art of drones, we are still in the steam powered car era. Someday maybe but not today and not this decade.

  • by Gorobei (127755) on Saturday January 05, 2013 @03:09PM (#42489175)

    The bigger problem is that NYC, LDN, Paris, etc, don't need this at all: we already have last mile delivery infrastructure...

    Right now, 150 restaurants will deliver food directly to me. Same for local liquor stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, etc. I'm told illegal drugs work the same way. For point-to-point one-offs, messenger services fill the need. Same for large items via van service. Hell, I can even ship my kids to playdates as needed via town car.

    Sheesh, I've been in the middle of a public park and ordered 10 pizzas for a birthday party. 30 minutes later, a bike delivery guys shows up with them.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

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