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Watch Out, Amazon: DHL Tests Drug-Delivery Drone

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the i-will-hunt-your-drones-for-sport dept.

Transportation 134

Nerval's Lobster writes "Amazon is apparently not alone in its desire to use miniature drones to deliver packages. On the morning of Monday, Dec. 9, employees at the Bonn, Germany headquarters of package-delivery giant DHL challenged Amazon's plan for dominance of the skies by having medicine delivered from a local pharmacy via a mustard-yellow package-carrying helicopter the Germans dubbed 'Paketkopter.' The quad-rotored mini-drone flew a box of medicines from a launching point near the pharmacy, above traffic and across the Rhine River to DHL's headquarters just over a kilometer away. It made the flight in about two minutes, was unloaded quickly and returned to the launch team near the pharmacy. Amazon has owned total mindshare of the still-imaginary drone-based package delivery market since CEO Jeff Bezos gushed about his plans for Amazon PrimeAir during a TV interview last week. The plan generated immediate controversy due to the negative image of drones following heavy use for surveillance and targeted anti-personnel strikes by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Within the United States, the FAA, FTC and a host of consumer-protection groups objected to the possibility that thousands of autonomous drones would be hovering over U.S. cities, potentially invading the privacy and endangering the lives of those who might run afoul of either cameras or rotors."

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134 comments

Laugh =) (5, Funny)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#45656067)

I have a drone that I am marketing, it specializes in robbing delivery drones.

Re:Laugh =) (5, Informative)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | about 4 months ago | (#45656291)

You may be joking, but Samy [samy.pl] isn't:

Today Amazon announced they're planning to use unmanned drones to deliver some packages to customers within five years. Cool! How fun would it be to take over drones, carrying Amazon packagesor take over any other drones, and make them my little zombie drones. Awesome.

Using a Parrot AR.Drone 2, a Raspberry Pi, a USB battery, an Alfa AWUS036H wireless transmitter, aircrack-ng, node-ar-drone, node.js, and my SkyJack software, I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will.

SkyJack also works when grounded as well, no drone is necessary on your end for it to work. You can simply run it from your own Linux machine/Raspberry Pi/laptop/etc and jack drones straight out of the sky.

Have the legal questions been tested? (1)

hedgemage (934558) | about 4 months ago | (#45656361)

If a drone crashes on my property due to malfunction/jammer/shotgun blast, does the package become my property? Its a fedral crime to tamper with found or misdelivered USPS mail, but Amazon, FedEx, DHL have no similar protections AFAIK. If through no (provable) actions of my own materials arrive on my property, can I salvage them?

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656377)

If a cargo plane crashes on your property, does its cargo become your property? No? Then why would you think a drone's payload might?

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656527)

If a ship sinks on my property, then what?

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656631)

If a ship sinks on my property, then what?

The cargo belongs to Spain.

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45658113)

Yes - it does, at least in the USA. Government property does not - but private enterprise craft and any property that enter and ultimately meet their demise through no fault of your own DO belong to the property owner.

EG: If you park your car in my back yard - I will file a report with the police. It says that I am announcing claim to vehicle with license plates XYZ in my back yard. You have N days(depending on both the state and in some cases counties within a state) to counter my claim to retrieve your vehicle. If you *do* counter my claim, the only way to retrieve your vehicle is to pay my completely unregulated but 100% enforaceable fee of $5000.00 per hour your vehicle resided on my property. Your *only* chance to avoid this is to attempt to sue me for your own property in small claims court - guess what - "N days" is no more than 30 in any state/county I've resided in. Your property became my property before your chance to contest that I wouldn't let you retrieve it.

Another EG: If your drone crashes(because I shot it down, but you can't prove that) in my back yard - you're going to have a fantastic law suit aimed right at you for the priceless [insert item] you destroyed. You lose no matter what. I don't want the diapers and vitamins your drone was carrying, I want your $75,000 liability insurance policy, and you can be damn well sure I'm going to get it.

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45658265)

EG: If you park your car in my back yard - I will file a report with the police. It says that I am announcing claim to vehicle with license plates XYZ in my back yard. You have N days(depending on both the state and in some cases counties within a state) to counter my claim to retrieve your vehicle. If you *do* counter my claim, the only way to retrieve your vehicle is to pay my completely unregulated but 100% enforaceable fee of $5000.00 per hour your vehicle resided on my property. Your *only* chance to avoid this is to attempt to sue me for your own property in small claims court - guess what - "N days" is no more than 30 in any state/county I've resided in. Your property became my property before your chance to contest that I wouldn't let you retrieve it.

First, [citation very much needed].

Second, even if we take your example at face value, the bolded portion is critical to your example because it represents a deliberate act of abandonment by the original owner, thus giving yourself a reasonable claim to the property in question. That element is not present in the case of a plane or drone crash, and so your "EG" can only stand for "extraneous garbage".

Another EG: If your drone crashes(because I shot it down, but you can't prove that) in my back yard - you're going to have a fantastic law suit aimed right at you for the priceless [insert item] you destroyed. You lose no matter what. I don't want the diapers and vitamins your drone was carrying, I want your $75,000 liability insurance policy, and you can be damn well sure I'm going to get it.

No, I can't be sure of that at all, because you've provided nothing but Internet Tough Guy bluster to back it up.

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (0)

koan (80826) | about 4 months ago | (#45656843)

How about if the drone crashes on you.

And that, in a nut shell, is why drones won't be delivering anything to your door but death.

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657251)

this whole drone delivery thing has seemed pretty silly.

but what if each neighborhood had a store with a clearly deliniated dropoff
area on its roof, and you could go to that store to pick up your drugs?

Re:Have the legal questions been tested? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45658453)

That would be far sillier, as it would defeat the purpose of using a drone in the first place.

Why would that matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657553)

These aren't military drones. These things are fucking small. Even given a good height, the likelihood of someone dying from impact is pretty slim.

More will continue to die from actual delivery trucks failing to see them.

Re:Laugh =) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656961)

Considering that I was proposing medical delivery drones for hospital deliveries, especially in the area of organ transplants. I hope you are okay with killing people. I know that any drone I design will include sophisticated sensors and never fly too far from assessable areas, if such a drone were to intercept one of mine I would seek murder charges.

That's a good idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656087)

I can't wait until junkies start shooting them down to get at the sweet, sweet Oxycontin inside

Re:That's a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656115)

No mod points, but I actually "laughed out loud" at both your imagery and the way said imagery was formed and delivered.

Amazon was a hoax (0)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 4 months ago | (#45656117)

No competition from Amazon. Have we already forgotten it was a hoax? [technoccult.net]

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#45656195)

No competition from Amazon. Have we already forgotten it was a hoax?

Your link doesn't even prove that it was a publicity stunt, and here's why: its conclusions are based on false premises and it's full of fud. It's also clear why you didn't bother to link to the full article [theguardian.com]; it doesn't say what you want it to say either.

First FUD: "The practical issues are manifold". Yes, welcome to the real world. FUD, not a specific objection. The specific objections are then made, and they are stupid. "[...]how does it [the drone] then find the package's intended recipient?" Probably it homes in on the mobile device used to make the order, and you'll probably have to use one. How is the transfer of the package enacted? Depicted in the video. It knows where it's being delivered. What stops someone else stealing the package along the way? You mean, by shooting it down? Ah yes, this line item was expanded into two, for filler purposes. And what happens when next door's kid decides to shoot the drone with his BB rifle? The same thing as when next door's kid (the house has a child?) shoots anything else that doesn't belong to them. Except in this case, it's recorded by high-resolution camera.

Then we have an outright lie: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates this area, intends to make commercial drones legally viable and workable by 2015, but this deadline is all-but impossible No, no it isn't. It probably won't happen anyway due to lobbying from entrenched interests. But there's no reason why existing regulations can't be applied to commercial drones. The area below 500 feet is already available due to existing restrictions on civilian air traffic.

Meanwhile, Wired claims that Amazon's delivery model makes the drones unworkable [wired.com], but that is just fucking stupid. It's stupid because Amazon has already changed their model partially to add more services, and there's no particular reason they can't do it again. Sort of like how Wired changed their magazine from having purple text on black backgrounds to having black text on neon green backgrounds to having black text on white backgrounds. Two changes, see? The drones won't be able to deliver everything in Amazon's catalog. It'll be small, high-value items often ordered by themselves by people willing to pay extra for rapid delivery.

In short, while it might well have been a hoax, nothing you have presented (nor any other evidence) proves it to be so.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 4 months ago | (#45656437)

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/02/amazon-drone-delivery-jeff-bezos-hype [theguardian.com]

According to the Guardian article you linked, and that I have up there, it was a publicity stunt. You went to an awful lot of trouble to form such a long impassioned rebuttal over such a simple thing that I find it almost disturbing. Amazon is speeding up their service by building micro-warehouses all over the nation in an attempt to facilitate overnight service to all. This we know is a fact. But if you really believe their is a chance that drones are going to be dropping packages off at you doorstep in under 10 - 15 years, you neither understand the logistics and you are both delusional and naive. Set down the Adderal and the Code Red. Maybe light some incense and listen to some Tibetan singing bowls or something.

from the article

Bezos' neat trick has knocked several real stories about Amazon out of the way. Last week's Panorama investigation into Amazon's working and hiring practices, suggesting that the site's employees had an increased risk of mental illness, is the latest in a long line of pieces about the company's working conditions – zero-hour contracts, short breaks, and employees' every move tracked by internal systems. Amazon's drone debacle also moved discussion of its tax bill – another long-running controversy, sparked by the Guardian's revelation last year that the company had UK sales of £7bn but paid no UK corporation tax – to the margins.

This most likely had more to do with the announcement. I can't believe you got modded up...

Re:Amazon was a hoax (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#45656719)

According to the Guardian article you linked, and that I have up there, it was a publicity stunt.

False. According to that article, it is probably a publicity stunt, and some people have said that they think so, but there is no actual proof. They in fact do not unequivocally state that it is such in the article (though quoted sources say that they are sure that it is such) which I presume is why you didn't copy and paste anything where that actually happens, instead choosing to employ prevarication by calling attention to Amazon's odious business practices. I agree that they are odious, but that does not reflect upon the validity of the drone delivery model, nor Amazon's intent (or lack thereof) to employ it.

I think you're likely correct, but the linked article does not prove that you are, and it is therefore bullshit to continue pounding on it as if it contained the facts you're looking for. It doesn't. It contains speculation.

But if you really believe their is a chance that drones are going to be dropping packages off at you doorstep in under 10 - 15 years, you neither understand the logistics and you are both delusional and naive.

I'm pretty sure I do understand the logistics. Quadcopters are already capable of doing this job right now, the infrastructure needed is simply not there. The infrastructure required is broad in extent, but a straightforward and simple extension of existing systems already in place at Amazon, such as robots now performing picking jobs in some of their distribution centers.

Set down the Adderal and the Code Red.

Congratulations, you're an asshole! Your prize is getting to live with yourself!

I can't believe you got modded up...

I still just can't believe it's not butter.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 4 months ago | (#45656735)

But if you really believe their is a chance that drones are going to be dropping packages off at you doorstep in under 10 - 15 years, you neither understand the logistics and you are both delusional and naive.

Interestingly, I think the DHL demo illustrates how it would actually work: picking up packages and taking them to the local collection and distribution points. You'd have to register as a verified pick-up point first, and then just schedule your pick-ups, and the nearest unladen drone in your priority queue swings by to pick up the merchandise for shipping.

Of course, one neat thing that COULD be done (but doesn't really fit the current model) is doing pick up AND delivery -- and patch the shipper through to the receiver, so that the shipper can verify the package is being delivered to the right person, and the recipient can verify who the package came from. There are, of course, a few privacy implications here as well.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45658289)

You went to an awful lot of trouble to form such a long impassioned rebuttal over such a simple thing that I find it almost disturbing.

Argument against effort is always an unconditional surrender.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 4 months ago | (#45658439)

Amazon is not into building micro-warehouses, it is shifting into the consumable market, groceries. Amazon is not an on-line sales company, Amazon is a logistics company. On-line sales is the foot into the door for it's logistics services.

Amazon next big steps will be in the area of the farm to the kitchen. There is some real scope in there, especially if you start looking at areas of the market like no specialised dairy products, frozen vegetables and frozen meats. There is a real opportunity to Amazon to cut the commodities dicks right out of the market and the keep a portion of those profits for itself.

Amazon can become the groceries logistics company, huge warehouse with long term storage (seasonal frozen products), limited food processing turning farm produce into storable, deliverable product as well as of course handling storage, picking and delivery for specialised food processors.

There is far more money in this area of the market then there is in Amazons current product area and in the area of next day delivery of groceries (around $200 per week per household average ie $10,000 per annum), pharmaceuticals are really neither here nor there, just an added bonus (there are a ton of profit margins added on in the various layers between the farmer and the kitchen, all of which Amazon could pick up and they are big enough to kick out the commodity brokers and keep that money as well).

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | about 4 months ago | (#45656459)

I think the single biggest technical hurdle will be range.. most smaller quad-copters have a range measured in minutes. There's also gusts of wind which affect some cities more than others, and even areas of cities more or less than others. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, or even be useful in some situations.. a quadcopter drone say half to a quarter the size of a typical rescue helicopter could be very useful for search/rescue operations... there are lots of uses of varying sized drones that could be helpful, and even practical... I just don't feel as a general delivery mechanism for distances over a mile or two is it practical.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656579)

The range issue can be solved by using drones only for the last mile. Take a truck full of packages and some drones, park it in the middle of a delivery area and let the drones drop off all packages in that area. Move truck to the middle of another delivery area and repeat.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#45656743)

The range issue can be solved by using drones only for the last mile. Take a truck full of packages and some drones, park it in the middle of a delivery area and let the drones drop off all packages in that area.

Sure, that's what I was talking about when the story came up the first time. At least, I think it was the first time, you never really know around here. However, that's not really necessary, at least not in the first generation. Amazon can cover a significant percentage of the customers who would use a service like this simply by placing centers intelligently. Safeway still offers grocery delivery in counties where they only cover a tiny postage stamp of the total area if it will be profitable given the location of the store, and by the same token, Amazon may reasonably offer drone delivery only in subsets of certain regions.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 4 months ago | (#45656773)

I wouldn't imagine they're intending to deploy this kind of service in suburbs and rural areas for a long time, if at all. They'd likely be looking at areas with a higher population density that don't have the wind issues of a city like New York. Something like the Fort Lee area in New Jersey would be an ideal location for initial deployment - very small numbers of skyscrapers (no wind issues), high population density, relatively affluent area.

Re:Amazon was a hoax (1)

mrcaseyj (902945) | about 4 months ago | (#45656877)

V22 Tiltrotor drones with shrouded rotors would have better range, payload, and safety. You could still have several rotors mounted on multiple tilting wings. Wings provide lift much more efficiently than rotors do. Shrouded rotors could perhaps be made practically silent to those on the ground.

If a few motors failed, a tiltrotor could very likely fly back home to a runway on as few as one or two rotors. If it can't fly back home, the wings would often allow it to glide to a gentle landing instead of just falling out of control. The glide ratio would allow selection of emergency landing sites over a larger area under the point of failure.

The wings combined with a horizontal takeoff would allow a heavier payload if you can live without the ability to hover or ascend near landing. After dropping off the payload it would be lighter for a vertical takeoff, or it could get a rolling start on a driveway. A tilt rotor would be much faster and have much longer range. It could also pick up a fresh battery at an automated batery change runway half way to the destination. That would allow more range or greater payload. Though a regular quad rotor could do that as well.

Probably mostly uneconomic... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45656123)

I can see this having very niche applications for very, very, fast-expiring medical goods (like live organs or components of the Technetium99 supply chain), where vehicles with a vulnerability to traffic might not be fast enough; but aren't the vast majority of drugs either taken predictably (multi-month supplies of this or that, trivial to just mail) or pulled from on-site inventory at hospitals and pharmacies?

Re:Probably mostly uneconomic... (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 4 months ago | (#45656177)

"like live organs or components of the Technetium99 supply chain"

Oh heavens, just think of all the conspiracy theories about that one.

"It was bad enough when it was just chem trails from jets. Now they're doing close air support with HIV infected livers and radioactives!"

Re:Probably mostly uneconomic... (1)

houghi (78078) | about 4 months ago | (#45656385)

If traffic is an issue, delivery can be done by motor. At least in Europe they are allowed to swerve through traffic. This will allow them to reach almost any destination in a short time.

Looking into quadcopters, the flight time is very limited as well as the weight they can cary. And then there is the weather.

There might be very limited places where they could come in handy for very specific tasks, but each one I can think of has a more reliable solution, even if the multicopters never crash. And cheaper as well.

Re:Probably mostly uneconomic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656423)

Well live organs are both rare and valuable enough to be transported conveniently with helicopters as far as I know

Re:Probably mostly uneconomic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657007)

Radioactive drones --- brilliant sales pitch

Re:Probably mostly uneconomic... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45657663)

Radioactive drones --- brilliant sales pitch

Oh, I wouldn't even try to sell the public on that one. On the plus side, Technetium is a pain in the ass to distribute precisely because it decays so fast, so you could choose far worse payloads.

Natural thing for postal carriers (2)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#45656131)

Though Amazon may benefit from its own fleet, the first users of this method ought to be postal carriers — such as, indeed, the DHL.

While the unionized UPS and USPS may have to contend with the "replacing people with robots" nonsense first, freer companies like FedEx may complement (if not outright replace) their local delivery trucks with drones some day (hopefully — soon). Instead of "On truck for delivery" the parcel-tracking page would say "In flight to destination, ETA 3 minutes" or some such.

I'll be happy to install a homing mat in my backyard... It will reduce traffic and pollution, quicken the delivery, and reduce theft of the items left on the easily-accessed porches (rather than the harder to access backyards).

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656217)

They'll have to find a way to smash up my package and dump it in my driveway without knocking on my door first if they're going to compete with FedEx.

Oh wait...

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656253)

I am not sure what unionized has to do with it ... DHL ist about a partially state-owned (I think ~25%) and they are testing drones

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (2)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#45656815)

I am not sure what unionized has to do with it ... DHL is

Everything is unionized in Germany, so the unions wield nowhere near as much power over there as here.

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656897)

I recently visited Austria. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, and it's because of the unions working in collusion with the church.

You would think that in the U.S. the religious right would look at something like that and then start arranging strategy meetings with the unions. But... um... no. Apparently they want everybody to go to church but also be working 10 hour days, 7 days a week.

The world is a strange place.

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656297)

and reduce theft of the items left on the easily-accessed porches

You know what else would reduce theft? If they actually knocked on my door and got a signature on the "signature required" package instead of forging one and tossing the package in a large puddle of water right next to the street.

Pro Tip: They won't (usually) do that if you insure the package for a high enough dollar amount.

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656299)

Why do You think it will speed up delivery? Goods will still be moved between cities with trucks and it will not change in foreseeable future. True, drone may move more quickly than a car but do You think DHL will buy so many drones that they'll deliver all goods in 2-3 hours? Or maybe they'll use as little drones as possible to deliver goods in one day? Do they hire so many people to deliver packages in first 2-3 hours of a day now? No? Then why would they do it with drones?

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (1)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#45656847)

Why do You think it will speed up delivery?

My parcels tend to arrive very late in the day — I stare at the "On truck for delivery" status on the tracking page all day perhaps, because we live at the ending portion of the delivery trucks' routes. With drones the item should make it here hours earlier, because each round trip for a flying drone would be well under an hour — and they'd be able to buy a lot of the little drones with the money saved on trucks.

Re:Natural thing for postal carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45658545)

Just because they'll have money to buy more drones doesn't matter they will buy them. If drones will be cost effective they'll spend as little money on them as possible and the surplus will go to shareholders.

Stunt. Pure and simple. (2)

d'baba (1134261) | about 4 months ago | (#45656139)

Forget drone-fights. The weather will keep these guys grounded. Fifteen mph winds with gusts.

Re:Stunt. Pure and simple. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656203)

Multirotors fly excellent in very high winds. I regularly fly in 25 MPH with gusts over 35 MPH and have no problem with even higher winds. The most I have flown in was right before a hurricane hit and winds were sustained 40+. No issues really. The computer compensates for the wind, it's not hard to fly.

The Amazon idea was a hoax and stupid (with current technology) but this system DHL was testing is actually not a bad idea. Most of the flight is not over people/cars/etc and they use it to make the trip across a river faster.

what could possibly go wrong (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 4 months ago | (#45656153)

people are stupid and will do stupid things to these copters. just wait and some idiot will tape a nice return present from their dog onto one.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656233)

Back yard skeet shooting events.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (2)

Entropius (188861) | about 4 months ago | (#45656337)

It turns out shooting at someone's drone with a shotgun is about as illegal, and for the same reasons, as whacking her car with a baseball bat.

People will do it, and other people will catch them and throw them in jail, and life will go on.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#45656251)

That's what /. always says about everything. And then progress keeps right on happening anyways.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656311)

That's what /. always says about everything. And then progress keeps right on happening anyways.

And then after a few months everybody acts all surprised when the /. predictions were correct.

Re:what could possibly go wrong (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#45656449)

It's all fine until a needle falling from the sky pokes Jimmy's eye out or injects him with psychotropic medications.

"Mommy! I found a box full of candy that fell from the sky!"

Amateurs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656185)

I'm working on a package delivery system using a massive trebuchet on a rotating base, controlled by computers. Load the package, aim, and launch. As they approach the ground, their parachute deploys, allowing for a comfortable descent to the ground.

Drones will be hijacked. (1)

FrodoOfTheShire (3459835) | about 4 months ago | (#45656269)

So we will have junkies taking down drones for the drugs, thieves shooting down drones for new amazon kindles, and pot heads shooting down drones for pizzas. There will be hackers trying to take down the drones just because they can and it's fun. And finally you will have Libertarians shooting down the drones because they are crazy about their privacy.
This will never work.

Re:Drones will be hijacked. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656325)

You forgot those that take down drones because they don't have enough drones.

Delivery Trucks (2)

The Raven (30575) | about 4 months ago | (#45656275)

How many people are killed, and how much property destroyed, every year by delivery trucks? I will happily trade a few dozen dead Fifi's to take several thousand delivery trucks off the road. Luddites never learn.

There are completely valid reasons to fear and distrust the mass use of drones by governments, and their power to suppress speech and curtail freedom. But this particular use of technology is exactly the kind of progress that saves time, money, lives, and the environment. Last-mile delivery by drone faces many hurdles, both legislative and technical, but it's a very smart goal to work towards that benefits everyone.

I tried to find some statistics, and the best I could come up with were these two links on an 'Truck Accident Attorney' website; I don't know how accurate they are. But delivery vehicles for FedEx and UPS killed 50 people in about two years, with another ~2000 non-fatal accidents. I will guarantee that the drones will have better statistics than that.

What about the birds? What about the noise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656447)

Might as well have flying lawn mowers

Re:What about the birds? What about the noise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656797)

The sound is actually more like a swarm of mosquitoes, pretty quiet compared to cars (which is how your packages are delivered now). Also, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but birds are perfectly capable of not hitting other birds. I don't see how they would have trouble not hitting this.

Re:Delivery Trucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656547)

Do you know how many drones will be needed to replace even one delivery truck?

There is no way drones will replace trucks. More likely they will be used to deliver packages that would take a truck driver far off-route.

And what of packages in excess of 30 lbs? The bigger the package, the bigger the drone. 150+ lbs of malfunctioning drone and cargo falling out of the sky isn't exactly safe.

Re:Delivery Trucks (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 4 months ago | (#45658591)

Well, the delivery here was medicine. Medicine is usually delivered in small quantities. I don't think anyone consumes 150+ lbs of medicine. Moreover, medicine can be time-critical to deliver. And even if not, you usually need it when you're ill, which is the time when you don't want to leave home if not absolutely necessary. So it's a perfect fit for this delivery method.

Re:Delivery Trucks (2, Interesting)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#45656627)

A quad/hex/octocopter capable of carrying 3kg is capable of killing someone with its rotors.

You also can't really fly one across the country. So it won't replace trucks.
The only thing these would probably replace are cycle couriers in dense cities.

How many accidents do you think there would be if the sky was full of these things flying over busy cities, trying to avoid buildings, birds, power lines, lamp posts and other drones? I don't want to be under one one falling out of the sky with its spinning blades going at 20,000rpm.

A quadcopter with a single engine failure/broken prop falls from the sky. You need 5 or more rotors to survive a single failure.

Re:Delivery Trucks (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657041)

Imagine 2 ton steel vehicles hurtling through cities mere inches from unprotected human beings.

It's far too dangerous to imagine. It could never happen.

Re:Delivery Trucks (2)

Jack Griffin (3459907) | about 4 months ago | (#45657551)

How many accidents do you think there would be if the sky was full of these things flying over busy cities, trying to avoid buildings, birds, power lines, lamp posts and other drones?

Pretty trivial to geofence an already GPS automated device. As for birds, the drones are slow enough for them to deal with appropriately by themselves.

I don't want to be under one one falling out of the sky with its spinning blades going at 20,000rpm.

I don't want to be under an 8 tonne truck when it's brakes fail either.

A quadcopter with a single engine failure/broken prop falls from the sky. You need 5 or more rotors to survive a single failure.

So use a hexacopter. None of the problems you raise are unsolvable.

Re:Delivery Trucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45658563)

Pretty trivial to geofence an already GPS automated device. As for birds, the drones are slow enough for them to deal with appropriately by themselves.

Yeah, the whole 'drone' thing is trivial. One wonders - why Greeks didn't used them?

Knock knock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656357)

"Who's there...?"

"DrugDrone."

"DrugDrone who?".

".... BLINK.... ERROR. UNDEFINED CONDITION...Connection to operator unavailable..."

(explodes in a ball of fire)...

"Drug delivery"? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#45656363)

I thought that "drug delivery" [wikipedia.org] had a very specific meaning. Does this mean that the drone is an oversized, high-tech wasp that will stick a giant needle into your ass?

Re:"Drug delivery"? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#45656765)

"Yessir. But we're not going to be able to cover the cost of that particular level of service with your Prime membership. That's going to be a little extra."

could be worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45656431)

DHS drug tests delivery drones, and I wouldn't put it past them.

I for one welcome our skeet-shooting overlords (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#45656439)

Pull!

(drone falls to ground)

Hmm, another package of free drugs flying over my airspace.

Packet Copter? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#45656537)

Is this the next advancement of IPoAC?
Replace the pigeons with quad copters?

Re:Packet Copter? (1)

Jamie Ian Macgregor (3389757) | about 4 months ago | (#45657059)

even if... it will only ever be good for UDP. at least in wires/fibre you don't have drone hunters and falcons. I'm guessing resending a bunch of lost packets could wind up expensive.

This makes sense (1)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45656995)

This is a reasonable idea. The items to be delivered are small and light, and pharmacies tend to have a customer base within a few miles. Many pharmacies already deliver. This would be cheaper and faster than sending out people in cars and trucks to carry tiny packages.

SilkRoad II, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657307)

Drone delivery will be perfect for anonymous delivery of contraband goods that are low volume high value density. Send the first delivery drone out to drop its cargo at some encrypted location. Send second drone to pick up said cargo. Chain as many layers as you feel you need.

Oh wow, it delivered a package a mile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657449)

That's total practical..... If you live within a mile of the depot. Wake me up when it can be done 10 miles away from the depot, and the drone can make it back to the depot without recharging. *Hint* This in not possible with current battery technology.

Phew! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45657783)

For a moment there I thought it said DHL was drug testing it drones, not cool man!

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