Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Transportation Google Technology

Hidden Obstacles For Delivery Drones 215

An anonymous reader writes: A few days ago we talked over some of the difficulties faced by makers of autonomous car software, like dealing with weather, construction, and parking garages. Today, the NY Times has a similar article about delivery drones, examining the safety and regulatory problems that must be solved in addition to getting the basic technology ready. "[R]researchers at NASA are working on ways to manage that menagerie of low-flying aircraft. At NASA's Moffett Field, about four miles from Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the agency has been developing a drone traffic management program that would in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground — around 400 to 500 feet for most drones. Much like the air traffic control system for conventional aircraft, the program would monitor the skies for weather and traffic. Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes." Beyond that, the sheer scale of infrastructure necessary to get drone delivery up and running in cities across the U.S. is staggering. Commercial drones aren't going to have much range, particularly when carrying something heavy. They'll be noisy, and the products they're transporting will still need to be relatively close by. What other issues do Amazon, DHL, Google, and other need to solve?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hidden Obstacles For Delivery Drones

Comments Filter:
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:20PM (#47803875)

    The main problem is the overall uneconomical and generally nonsensical idea of using delivery drones. Trucks are simple and work well in bad weather. There's a huge non-employed workforce of people who can easily be trained to deliver packages. Delivery trucks can be powered by natural gas, which is so abundant that many oil rigs simply burn it off rather than going to the trouble of capturing it.

    in the general case, delivery drones don't work. Trucks do.

  • by deroby ( 568773 ) <> on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @03:54AM (#47804899)

    Weird this got modded 'Interesting'.

    Sure, we pay people to have those goods delivered to our door; it's called a service and the people providing it need to feed their families too. That said, if you eliminate those costs by 'automating delivery by way of drones', you'll add the price for buying/training/maintaining these and the whole infrastructure that comes with it; hence, you eliminate known costs by adding new guesstimated (bigger?) costs. TCO is mostly a buzzword in my vocabulary, but in this case it probably is worth having a look at. On top of that you'll probably need to keep a backup 'manual service' at hand anyway because these things won't be able to do their job when it rains/snows/storms/... heck, a bit of wind and you're finished. Nobody cares if the postman wears shorts or a scarf, we 'know' he'll come through.

    Also, you may consider bicycle couriers a nuisance, having these things whizz around everywhere sounds (!) much more annoying to me. Might look 'cool' in Sci-Fi movies, it would get on my nerves quite fast in reality I think.

    The part I'm I think will be the big show-stopper is the likelihood of people 'catching goodies from the sky'. Given the technical restrictions of these drones it seems fair to assume they'll be used mostly for 'small but expensive' goods. What's to stop people from building a microwave-gun to fry the electronics and run of with the cargo ? Heck, a decent slingshot could probably bring them down. I realize one could rob any courier service, but with drones it's going to be dead-simple unless they start building in all kinds of security measures but thus limiting the capacity/range/... of the machine.

Disks travel in packs.