Up until recently, drones had been seen as somewhat of a flight of fancy – and most still are. However, the opportunities posed from the evolving technology mean that it’s getting harder to deny that they’ll soon become commonplace in our skies.
Some of the biggest industry players are all joining the revolution, coming up with new and innovative ways to reap the rewards the technology can provide.
When it comes to logistics, speed is the name of the game. A few years ago, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, promised that the company would soon deliver packages by drone, at a time where he said it “looks like science fiction.” Now years later, and much more of a reality for the company, drones could soon become the delivery method of choice. Recently, a patent was filed to allow parcels to be dropped from drones to customer houses via parachutes. The descent will be directed by the drone, which will release the parcel using a burst of force from electromagnets and spring coils.
While Amazon will release theirs from the sky, UPS is planning to go one further by launching delivery drones from the top of UPS® package cars. Working in collaboration with Workhorse, the company has developed technology that will allow the drone to leave the vehicle, deliver the package to a customer and then return to the vehicle while the driver continues along their route to a separate delivery. Commenting on the benefits, Workhorse CEO, Steve Burns, said: “We know it’s greener. We know it’s economical, it uses only three cents of electricity per mile, no driver time, it’s completely autonomous.”
In another world, Ford have been envisaging a future city where hoverboards carry shopping and drones deliver packages to skyscrapers. As part of their Last Mile Mobility Challenge, employees have been coming up with solutions to combat the issues presented in the initial and final steps of a journey. The company believes that the ‘Autodelivery’ concept could improve both efficiency and the customer experience.
Such is the pace of change that we wouldn’t be surprised to see drones put to use for a delivery near you in the coming year.
In the world of transport, taxis could soon be a thing of the past if Dubai has any say in the matter. Last month, the head of the country’s Roads and Transportation Agency, Mattar al-Tayer, announced that the arrival of the Ehang 184, dubbed the world’s first passenger drone, could be as early as July 2017. It can carry one passenger weighing up to 100kg and can stay airborne for 30 minutes on a single charge. Once inside, passengers can use a touchscreen to select their destination, after which the drone will map the route and set off on its journey, with a maximum cruising speed of 62 mph.
Designed to be secure, the drone incorporates a “fail safe” system, which will prompt it to land in the nearest available area if something were to malfunction during flight.
How does a test flight look?
With opportunities valued at $45bn, the infrastructure sector is certainly one that will benefit greatly from the introduction of drones. Described as a source of “indisputable data”, it’s no surprise that companies are turning to the technology to speed up and improve surveying. In what would sometimes take workers days to complete, drones are proving they can do the same work in a matter of hours.
While not seen as an immediate benefit to some, one thing drones are making a huge impact on is health and safety. Figures from PwC have shown that in some building projects, accidents have been cut by 91% after drones captured concerns of people not wearing hard hats and other safety gear. UAVs are also allowing work to be completed that was once seen as difficult or even impossible.
What about the drawbacks?
As with any new technology, there will always be stumbling blocks along the way. An ISACA survey has shown that 75% of respondents are most concerned about security and privacy when it comes to the unmanned vehicles, and that only 25% currently believe the benefits outweigh the potential risks. Questions have been raised surrounding the issue of physical safety, but it’s likely that any legalities will be outlined and fine-tuned by the time drones become a regular appearance.
Another concern is that they have obvious limitations. Drones are limited to the times they can be run for – for some, including the Ehang passenger drone, this is only around 30 minutes. On top of this, they are also fragile and can be expensive to construct and repair. It’s no secret that record numbers have been crashing in recent months and years, so will businesses be willing to take the risk? We think the answer is a resounding yes!