About the drone service
Delivery by drones (unmanned air mail, English delivery drone) is a method of delivery/transportation of various goods (food, medicines, etc.) using commercial drones. Most of the solutions offered today are based on a configuration with six or more rotors. The delivery box is placed in the compartment located at the bottom of the copter (or attached to the drone itself using a mounting mechanism). After delivery, the client receives the package, either by removing it from the cable lowered from the drone hovering in the air (which eliminates the need for landing), or picking it up from the compartment after the UAV has landed.
Today, drone delivery is one of the key areas that both large UAV manufacturers and companies specializing in the delivery of goods around the world are working on. In this article, we will tell the reader about the prospects for delivery drone, as well as who will be the first in this business area.
To date, four American companies developing commercial drones for the delivery of goods are among the first successful ones:
- Wing Aviation
- Uber Technologies
- UPS & Matternet
While there are many regulatory hurdles that still need to be overcome. For the US, 2019 marked the start of a number of unmanned delivery trials:
- It is known that this month Wing Aviation, together with FedEx and Walgreens, began to carry out a test mode delivery using its drone in Christiansburg, Virginia.
- Uber says it has already started testing drone delivery in San Diego, California.
- Amazon did not specify where they would test their drones, but back in June the company said it would start delivering packages to consumers using drones “within the next few months.”
- UPS & Matternet recently reported that it has received full certification from the FAA, allowing it to operate as an unmanned airline using Matternet’s drone technology to expand its on-demand delivery of urgent items across the country.
What are the prospects?
According to industry experts, it takes quite a long time to launch a large-scale drone delivery service. However, commercial drone sales are expected to grow strongly. The FAA estimates that number will rise from 600,000 (as of 2016) to approximately 2.7 million in 2020.
Amazon has been testing its drones in Cambridge, England since 2016. It is known that before settling on the last hexagonal configuration, the developers had to consider about 50,000 concepts. The Amazon drone is a rather interesting design with a hexagonal shape and a guard mounted around the six main rotors. An Amazon drone lands to deliver the package. Takeoff and landing is carried out vertically. To carry out high-speed flight, the drone switches from horizontal to semi-horizontal mode. The drone can make a 20-kilometer round trip and promises delivery within 30 minutes. The drone uses machine learning algorithms combined with an infrared sensor system to detect wires, birds and buildings. The company programs its drones for different scenarios so they know what to do when they arrive at a delivery location, for example.
The design of the Wings Aviation drone is even more unusual. To implement vertical takeoff and landing, their drone is equipped with 12 small propellers. For horizontal flight at higher speeds, wings with two large propellers are provided. The Wing drone lowers the package using a cable, which excludes its landing from the delivery process. Able to deliver within 10 minutes at a distance of up to 19 kilometers.
Wing aviation has been testing its drones since 2014 in Australia. The company has conducted more than 80,000 tests, according to the Wall Street Journal. As previously mentioned, Wing Aviation is partnering with FedEx and Walgreens to deliver small packages to Christiansburg, Virginia. The developer does not report by means of which technologies the detection and flight of obstacles is carried out.
Drone Uber received a traditional configuration. This is a hexacopter, which is actually a modified AR200 drone from AirRobot. In May of this year, Uber partnered with McDonald’s to test drone delivery near the University of California, San Diego. The company says residents living in close proximity to the university will soon be able to order drone-delivered food from a limited number of local restaurants through the Uber Eats app. Uber promises delivery in an average of 7 minutes for distances up to 4.8 kilometers. The developer does not report by means of which technologies the detection and flight of obstacles is carried out.
UPS & Matternet
The Matternet M2 Drone standalone platform includes the Matternet M2 drone itself, the Matternet control station and the Matternet cloud platform through which interaction with Matternet networks is carried out. The drone received a classic quadrocopter configuration. The potential of the platform allows you to automatically receive customer requests, generate routes, monitor and manage all existing Matternet assets. The developer presents its platform as a service for healthcare, e-commerce and logistics organizations. The M2 drone is authorized by the Swiss Aviation Authority for full-fledged logistics operations over cities. Designed for the transportation of goods weighing up to 2 kg or 4 liters over distances up to 20 km, operating 24/7/365.
Matternet, led by Boeing HorizonX Ventures, has raised $16 million in Series A funding. The company will use the funds to expand U.S. and global operations in an urban setting.