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Hidden Obstacles For Delivery Drones

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the cloaked-birds-of-prey dept.

Transportation 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?

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What problem does this solve, again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803835)

Really? This is like those "3D printing will solve everything" stories from last year. So much mindless hype.

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (2, Interesting)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47803933)

The problem where people have to be paid to deliver items. Like your postman, or courier drivers. Especially those pesky bicycle couriers in cities.

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804007)

Baffling response.

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47804183)

Very much so. And it is basically not solvable in an efficient way anyways. This "drone delivery" is a pure PR stunt that will not materialize in this decade or the next one.

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (2)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 2 months ago | (#47804213)

Driverless cars and drone deliveries are good examples of the old saying, "just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD."

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47804371)

Driverless cars and drone deliveries are good examples of the old saying, "just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD."

Or they could use the driverless cars to do the deliveries.

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804269)

Obama is a traitor. Obama runs a baby-Stalin dictatorial regime. Obama is an imperial president. Obama and his regime are the enemies within. Obama and his regime are the enemies of faith, freedom, family and liberty. Obama has bought our LEOs and Military with Pay and Pension with Printed Fake Federal Reserve Notes. LEOs and Military should note that those FRNs are paper, but our freedom costs much blood. We need to end thus regime and most of the government needs to be re-chained as the Constitution wanted. All of the acolytes of Alinsky, Cloward and Piven should be arrested and imprisoned for their sedition, for their treason, for their utter evil.

Debt is Wealth. Ignorance is Strength. Freedom is Slavery. War is Peace. Cold is Warm.

Re:What problem does this solve, again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804539)

Obama bought Low Earth Orbit? Ooooooh, did he pay for it with Debt?

Hijacking and theft (2)

MattCC (551250) | about 2 months ago | (#47803843)

How will the drones ensure that the recipient is the correct person? And how will they protect themselves against other people or drones stealing the cargo?

Re: Hijacking and theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803863)

biometrics of course... damn.

Re:Hijacking and theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803867)

biometrics, of course. ....

damn.

Re:Hijacking and theft (1)

mykro76 (1137341) | about 2 months ago | (#47804141)

GUNS! This is America, you know.

Re:Hijacking and theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804369)

I plan on using my rifle (err, drone anti-aircraft system) to play an awesome new game called "What Did I Win Today", because.. fuck you, this is my airspace (I don't care what the FAA says, if you are at 300 ft, you are in my airspace)

Re:Hijacking and theft (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47804379)

How will the drones ensure that the recipient is the correct person?

They don't. Neither does a human delivery person. I have never been asked for an ID to receive a package, and most don't even ask for a signature.

And how will they protect themselves against other people or drones stealing the cargo?

They don't. Neither does a human delivery person when they leave a package on he porch, or in the mailbox.

Two words: (1)

guygo (894298) | about 2 months ago | (#47803847)

Target practice.

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803883)

I can't wait to see how far a garden hose can reach. No crime to shoot water out of a hose at yet another annoying delivery drone.

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803901)

We will MAKE it a crime, says Google.

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803909)

Actually, it's against the law to shoot water out of a hose at a moving vehicle on the road.

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803931)

I was watering the tree!

Re:Two words: (2)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 2 months ago | (#47804241)

it's not against the law to fire water out of a hose at an aircraft.

Although, I'd prefer to take a lesson from history and start deploying barrage balloons. The hazard isn't so much the balloon itself, but the tether. Particularly for a small UAV.

Re:Two words: (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47804399)

it's not against the law to fire water out of a hose at an aircraft.

There is no specific law against it, just like there is no law specifically against throwing bowling balls at passing bicyclists. But there are general laws against endangering or harming other people, or intentionally destroying other people's property.

Re:Two words: (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47803943)

No crime to use a laser pointer on your own property.
Now, lets aim those at commercial aircraft...

Re:Two words: (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 months ago | (#47803983)

Target practice.

Do you shoot at cars that go by your house too? How about planes that fly over? What happens when it falls and hits someone from 5-600 feet up carrying a 50 pound payload you going to pay the hospital bills after you shoot it out of the air?

Re: Two words: (1)

guygo (894298) | about 2 months ago | (#47804045)

They asked what issues drone delivery will face. My point is that the ability to anonymously take down a drone is way too much temptation for some to pass up. I think it highly likely that there will be attempts to bring them down. What I do personally has nothing to do with it. Sheesh.

Re: Two words: (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 months ago | (#47804081)

Couldn't the drones include cameras? Very good cameras fit in smartphones, so this isn't a size or weight problem.

Re: Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804127)

Another point, besides just having the chance to take one down: whom said that private companies are allowed to fly through MY air?!?

I own the area abouve my house. In the USA, the FAA holds the rights to the space abouve 1000 feet, and I own the area below that, bounded by my property. If these drones are flying at 400-500 feet, within the bound of my property, I see no reason why I cannot commandeer any drones passing within my property until the owner decides to come and collect it - just as if a kid threw a frisbee over the fence. Alternatively, I can file charges for tresspass, or require to be paid for the use of my airspace.

This is why the FAA had to be given ownership of airspace above 1000 feet - so that planes are not trespassing, and aviation rights did not need to be negotiated with landowners.

Re: Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804143)

Yeah, so? Google will be given ownership of airspace below 1000 feet. This is America! You don't have rights anymore. Get used to it.

Re: Two words: (1)

MildlyTangy (3408549) | about 2 months ago | (#47804193)

People like you are why we cant have nice things.

Re: Two words: (2)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 2 months ago | (#47804589)

I hate to say it, but in general you don't own the airspace above your house...

There are exceptions, and "air rights" do exist.

But rest assured, helicopters fly over houses at 500 feet above the ground all the time and they aren't trespassing.

--- commercial helicopter pilot and certified flight instructor for over 10 years

Re: Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804295)

You're assuming that the company won't be tied into a network of microphones relaying real-time information back to a central computer. Some big cities already have gunshot locators. Now imagine what happens when the drone delivery companies offer to put gunshot microphones on the drones.

Shooting a drone in a big city will be like ordering a SWAT team to your door in 30 minutes or less.
Bonus: They'll charge you with domestic terrorism and send your ass to gitmo.

Re:Two words: (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 2 months ago | (#47804157)

if a somebody's drone was trespassing on my property I would blast it out of the sky.

Re:Two words: (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 months ago | (#47804595)

Target practice.

Do you shoot at cars that go by your house too? How about planes that fly over? What happens when it falls and hits someone from 5-600 feet up carrying a 50 pound payload you going to pay the hospital bills after you shoot it out of the air?

if a somebody's drone was trespassing on my property I would blast it out of the sky.

Actually you don't own the airspace over your property.

"The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States. The act defines navigable airspace as "airspace above the minimum altitudes of flightincluding airspace needed to ensure the safety in the takeoff and landing of aircraft."

-wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_rights)

In fact the United States Supreme Court in UNITED STATES v. CAUSBY ruled that air space is a public highway, as such you would be shooting a vehicle on a public highway.
(http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/328/256)

And shooting at aircraft including drones is already illeagle and will result in you getting sent to jail for about 20 years.
(18 U.S. Code 32 - Destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities)

So if you want to spend decades behind bars please by all mean shoot one.

Re:Two words: (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 2 months ago | (#47804613)

Actually you don't own the airspace over your property.

"The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States. The act defines navigable airspace as "airspace above the minimum altitudes of flightincluding airspace needed to ensure the safety in the takeoff and landing of aircraft."

ok then I claim the first 100 feet or so above my property. basically anything within range of my shotgun. I'm sure this won't be a problem, FTA doesn't even want to talk about drones much less regulate them as aircraft. if a UPS van drove across your property while delivering packages to other people's houses, you'd shoot it too.

Re: Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804649)

This actually made me ponder: how hard would it be to create a drone that would go around taking down other drones?

This could actually be worth it where it could be done in bulk. 20+ collected Amazon drone packages a day...

Do you think anyone would potentially try doing that in the future?

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804235)

Already covered by:

- Laws against discharging firearms within city limits.
- Laws against damaging things owned by someone else.

And will be aided by:

- $10,000+ bounties for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who damages ${company}'s drones.

Do not want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803855)

I just don't want to have to listen to drones buzzing by for any reason. The convenience factor is not worth the loss of quality of life for everyone.

Re:Do not want (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 months ago | (#47803911)

I doubt anyone living in a place like Manhattan would even notice, with all of the noise already present - especially from street traffic.

Re:Do not want (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47803955)

But there would be less traffic if there were fewer delivery vehicles on the road. Especially those noisy diesel vans.

Re:Do not want (1)

Tom (822) | about 2 months ago | (#47804201)

The main problem with traffic is not delivery vehicles, but single-person private cars. For them, more efficient transport options (car sharing, public transport, bikes) exist. For delivery, the truck is often the most efficient solution already.

Re:Do not want (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47804423)

The main problem with traffic is not delivery vehicles, but single-person private cars..

But if deliveries are faster and cheaper there will be fewer single-person private cars on the road. Many car trips are to fetch a few items from the grocery or hardware store, or to fetch some documents that you left at work. If on-demand drone delivery was available, these trips could be avoided.

Re:Do not want (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 months ago | (#47804497)

The number of UAVs it would take to replace a single FedEx or UPS truck would certainly be several orders of magnitude noisier.

Re:Do not want (1)

avgjoe62 (558860) | about 2 months ago | (#47804043)

And how exactly is a drone supposed to make a delivery to my apartment on the 56th floor in the middle of Manhattan? Drone delivery may be good for a farm out in the country where we don't want to waste time sending a truck and driver to the only order in fifty miles. But densely populated cities? A truck and driver will be much more efficient for that environment.

Re:Do not want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804067)

And how exactly is a drone supposed to make a delivery to my apartment on the 56th floor in the middle of Manhattan?

Yu oda chinee foo?

Re:Do not want (1)

Tom (822) | about 2 months ago | (#47804283)

This a thousand times. Watching the videos, I can't shake the feeling about how inefficient these things are and how much more efficient a delivery truck is. Sparsely populated countryside is really the only place where delivery drones make any sense at all.

Re:Do not want (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47804437)

And how exactly is a drone supposed to make a delivery to my apartment on the 56th floor in the middle of Manhattan?

It could deliver to the roof. Then you could go up and get it, or a robot could bring it to your apartment.

Re:Do not want (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 2 months ago | (#47804451)

There aren't enough isolated people getting frequent deliveries for it to make economic sense to deploy drones. Why spend millions of dollars developing a new technology to avoid a few trips a year?

Also, a drone that could carry a package 50 miles and return would have to carry a lot of additional weight in fuel. A driverless "car" big enough to carry a package would probably be able to make the delivery for a fraction of the cost.

The main problem: they don't make sense (2, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (1)

Harlequin80 (1671040) | about 2 months ago | (#47803897)

Further to this. If we do see self driving vehicles any time soon I would have thought that would have been infinitely preferable to drones. Some kind of system that gets you to meet the truck - calling or texting minutes before arrival. A bay that only has your parcel in it.

A lot of parcels are shipped in standard boxes these days so that shouldn't be too difficult a system to build. It wouldn't replace a driver with odd or bulky parcels of course.

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (1)

tshawkins (1239974) | about 2 months ago | (#47803945)

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.

Dang, thats exactly what i told them when they bought in those new fangled automobiles, nobody wants or needs to move faster than 15 miles per hour, and the economoics of them will never work out.

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803979)

mod parent troll

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804101)

Fuck you. I'll mod you troll.

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804307)

It's obviously a troll. There's zero merit to his comment.

"Time travel doesn't work. A better suggestion is to think ahead so you don't need to travel back in time to fix your mistakes."
"That's what they said about the automobile."

Yeah. Thanks for that insight. Glad you've got moderators on your side so we can keep seeing those gems.

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47804191)

Have a look at the time-frame for automobiles. Then extrapolate. Result: In 30-50 years we may have drone-delivery, but not much sooner. And if you make that "flying cars", "never" sounds about right.

Re:The main problem: they don't make sense (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 2 months ago | (#47804395)

Except it won't work for heavy packages. And it won't work near airports. And it won't work in bad weather. And it's a safety risk to people on the ground. And some simpler answer will always be better. In 30-50 years, truck delivery and logistics will have made progress too.

Think about it. What real world conditions would have to exist for drone delivery to make more sense than trucks?

Traffic? Use two-wheeled vehicles instead of trucks.
No drivers? Driverless trucks or some other ground-based driverless vehicle.

Here's the one situation where airborne drone delivery may make sense: deliveries to boats, to the wilderness, or to people across a body of water with no bridge. That's it.

Or maybe in 200-400 years, when all the challenges to drone delivery have been rendered trivial, it will still be easier and cheaper to use trucks, but since all the problems are trivial and airborne drones are cooler and faster, maybe then use drones sometimes.

Potentially concerning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803885)

Who'll regulate where such 'zone freeways' would actually exist? Wouldn't it make more sense to require that automated drones have object avoidence that can sense utility wires and other drones, as well as adverse weather conditions if they want their free fly license and be done with it? We're not talking about automating jets here. The whole advantage of a drone is the fact that it CAN fly in a straight line to its destination and back.

This sounds a lot like idiots trying to regulate technology they know nothing about.

Property rights (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 2 months ago | (#47803887)

It's bad enough that someone can fly over your house at high altitude without you receiving any compensation, but, a bunch of drones added to the mix just undermines your own property rights.

Re:Property rights (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47803969)

It's bad enough people can walk past my driveway without compensation! I may not own the footpath but its crossing in front of my driveway!
Those companies operating their pesky satellites orbiting overhead should be compensating me too.
Don't get me started when the moon goes over head!

You never bought the airspace above your house. It's not on the title of your property. Shut the fuck up you useless hick.

Re:Property rights (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 2 months ago | (#47804031)

Why are you so quick to give away for free something that a major corporation will make tons of money on? That transit conduit has a value and it is only because of government that I cannot get some value out of it. You can call me a hick all that you want, and maybe I am, but you're the one advocating a system where people are going to use a resource that you possess, for free, and without even a shred of protest. "Here Amazon, go ahead and make billions of dollars flying drones 500 feet above my house, for free." Yep, that's what you want. I think that's stupid.

Re:Property rights (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47804137)

It's only because of the government that you cannot get value out of it?
It's only because of the government that you have your property in the first place. You bought the land in exchange for certain rights. Why do you expect additional rights for free?

Re:Property rights (1)

Tom (822) | about 2 months ago | (#47804171)

You never bought the airspace above your house.

You are wrong about that. I cannot legally build my house right over your house, even if it never touches the ground that you bought.

Clearly, airlines are flying above without considering property rights below, so somewhere "your" airspace ends, but just because it's in the air doesn't mean it doesn't touch property rights.

Re:Property rights (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 months ago | (#47804211)

The various flight ceilings on commercial aviation might speak to that, but I seriously doubt any court is going to interpret the law as being about property rights as opposed to public safety / nuisance.

You have all sorts of protections from things that never touch your property, but they're definitely not defined by the property boundaries. For instance you can't demand that soundwaves do not enter your premises at all - instead you can possibly get a neighbours air conditioner moved so it isn't above a certain volume, within the bounds of what's considered reasonable.

Re:Property rights (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 2 months ago | (#47804337)

there are no set boundaries on airspace in property. What there is, is reasonable use of airspace such that it does not interfere with others' use of the same airspace. For example, zoning laws mean that buildings are restricted in terms of height (more to do with the density of the ground than what the airspace is used for), but there are some circumstances, such as near airports, that clearly define for reasons of safety, where building construction may *not* encroach, such as approach lanes and ILS beam paths, RADAR sweeps, and other such areas where commercial aircraft flying through might pose a hazard. For reasonable use of airspace, read: you may build a 20-foot high dwelling (which occupies the bottom 20 feet of airspace above your land) and while you may later decide to extend that to 200 feet high, in the meantime easement is implied unless it causes a nuisance. What is above your roof is by implication of it being contiguous with surrounding air space, navigable airspace hence public airspace. The amount of noise generated by jet engines necessitates the restriction on traffic floors for commercial jet aircraft (in England I think it's 1500 feet for subsonic aircraft, supersonic flight is restricted to offshore airspace). You *may* collect some sort of toll on easement *if you have the right and authority to do so* but normally, you do not. CAA authority over public airspace begins and ends with maintaining safe traffic flow, air licensing revenues collected on their behalf actually pays for this (and it's only the commercialisation of airspace and the associated traffic density that necessitates traffic flow control). It ain't some magic oompa loompa thing, it's actual people doing this and people need to eat.

Re:Property rights (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about 2 months ago | (#47804261)

I cannot legally build my house right over your house, even if it never touches the ground that you bought.

I don't see the point here. Even if we assume I don't own air rights above my house, that doesn't mean that you do.

Re:Property rights (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 2 months ago | (#47804013)

I bet you wanted to sue Apollo astronauts for trespassing because was the moon was clearly above your house.

Re:Property rights (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 2 months ago | (#47804059)

There's actually an international treaty that prohibits countries from claiming property rights on celestial bodies due to their being in space. By signing that treaty, countries agreed that the property of space effectively belongs to the United Nations or whatever treaty body controls claims for it. But yes, suing for space is ridiculous, but, is noise pollution for airlines flying above your house as ridiculous? What about drones flying 500 feet overhead, or even 100 feet? I think as a property owner you should be compensated for that. It's your land, and you are entitled to "some" of the airspace above it, and I wouldn't be so quick to just hand that value of that away to another corporation to make money off of. I mean, would you let someone set up shop and frack in your back yard? What's really the difference?

Re:Property rights (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 months ago | (#47804115)

Ultimately, your property "rights" are granted rights, not inalienable or natural rights. You don't own air rights or mineral rights for simple, pragmatic reasons.

Hell, by international convention "conquest" is the most sure-fire way to get more real estate.

As for noise pollution - people have been suing over that since the dawn of aviation. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose (hard to prove harm if you bought a house near an existing airport...). Over the years, we've made jets quieter, we've restricted the operating hours, and we've limited flight to sub-sonic over land. People fight over industrial plant emissions, sewer plant location, and yes - fracking locations - all the time.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that drone use will be regulated through the democratic process and not (solely) by some quaint notion of property rights.

Re:Property rights (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 2 months ago | (#47804351)

there is nobody stopping you from operating your own drone over your own land, as long as you don't cause a nuisance to others. Their enjoyment of the airspace over your land comes with the same condition: that they don't cause a nuisance to you.

Re:Property rights (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 2 months ago | (#47804037)

...a bunch of drones added to the mix just undermines your own property rights....

Of course, that depends upon the altitude of the drones.

.
If they're flying at 50 feet, there is a definite issue.

So the question becomes, how high do the drones have to fly before the issues they raise become moot?

Re:Property rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804135)

Of course, that depends upon the altitude of the drones.

.
If they're flying at 50 feet, there is a definite issue.

They fly at 400-500 feet. This is still a problem.

So the question becomes, how high do the drones have to fly before the issues they raise become moot?

1000

Re:Property rights (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 months ago | (#47804197)

You want that slice of the universe over your house as well? Then better start policing it, if you can....

Wait, I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47803895)

I thought we could 3D print everything we need at home? Why do we need drones delivering stuff? Sounds like a Luddite solution.

Re:Wait, I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804111)

Someone's gotta deliver the filament and print heads 'cause we're all too fat and lazy to walk down to the store

Weight (1)

ebonum (830686) | about 2 months ago | (#47803921)

"Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes"

I'm not so sure about this one. A 747 in a 20 mph cross wind does 20 mph sideways. A drone in a 20 mph cross wind does 20 mph sideways.

When there is a gust (or any change in wind speed), there would be a difference. An object with a lot of mass will react more slowly to the same force. That said, once a 747 starts blowing sideways in the wind, making a correction is going to take more time and a larger force that it would for a light drone. In a big plane you do a lot more planning ahead for good reason. There are more "well, it depends on.." Even when mass is equal, a plane with a small tail (vertical stabilizer) close to the center of mass is going to react very differently than a plane with a large vertical stabilizer far from the center of mass. (Think lever arm/torque) In one you need a lot of skill to keep it from ground looping when landing in gusty cross winds.

Re:Weight (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 months ago | (#47804185)

"Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes."

Small drones don't have much inertia. They can be easily flipped by a small local wind gust. This is a big problem for drones that operate close to buildings, where there are eddies and turbulence as air hits the building. Pass the corner of a building and the wind situation may be completely different.

Very smart and aggressive stability control systems are able to overcome this. See this drone from PSI Tactical [psitactical.com] , which weighs about 0.5Kg and is supposed to be able to operate in winds up to 30MPH.

Re:Weight (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 2 months ago | (#47804199)

Good points. I think the key concept is called Wing Loading [wikipedia.org] which is the ratio of mass to wing area. For example [wikipedia.org] :

Effect on stability

Wing loading also affects gust response, the degree to which the aircraft is affected by turbulence and variations in air density. A small wing has less area on which a gust can act, both of which [I think they are referring to low area and high mass] serve to smooth the ride. For high-speed, low-level flight (such as a fast low-level bombing run in an attack aircraft), a small, thin, highly loaded wing is preferable: aircraft with a low wing loading are often subject to a rough, punishing ride in this flight regime.

IOW, what matters is the ratio of the mass to the wing area and not just the mass (weight) with no context. For example, if you have two round rocks of roughly the same mass and tie a very light wing to one of them (which makes the masses equal). The one with the wing will be more affected by gusts even though the masses are the same.

Why use drones at all? (1)

Marrow (195242) | about 2 months ago | (#47803959)

Drones seem un-necessary. Why the return trip? Why not make the delivery vehicle....a "smart-bomb". A delivery vehicle that could be dropped from a [very] large plane and that descends in a very controlled fall to its destination. Maybe homing in on GPS, or using a small camera.. It would have just enough smarts to control its descent and make adjustments, but be disposable otherwise. Or tough enough to ship back to Amazon by "ground" shipping.

Re:Why use drones at all? (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 2 months ago | (#47804055)

Of course, this raises the question... what if a drone delivers a package but never makes it back to "home base"? The loss of how many drones per year has Amazon figured into the business plan?

just too many issues (1)

resfilter (960880) | about 2 months ago | (#47804015)

people in apartments or yards of an inappropriately small size, or with too many overhanging trees, will be blacklisted as the things crash repeatedly, they'll default to truck delivery.

an equation of range vs weight will be used that ends up defaulting anything but a friggn' bottle opener to truck delivery.

during questionable weather, shipments will be heavily delayed until the weather clears, and they'll default to truck delivery.

bird flys into your shipment. kid throws a rock at it. whatever. re-shipments probably default to truck delivery.

people (including me) will order $5 packages, wait for them to arrive, then steal the 'copter for parts. no real way to prove it didn't just crash, right?

eventually it'll just become a cool novelty if some package lands successfully in your backyard instead of by truck, instead of a real utility.

Re:just too many issues (1)

Tom (822) | about 2 months ago | (#47804221)

or with too many overhanging trees, [...] people (including me) will order $5 packages, wait for them to arrive, then steal the 'copter for parts. no real way to prove it didn't just crash, right?

Which is why Googles system (lowering the parcel on a rope, the drone never comes even near ground) is superior to Amazons (land-and-release) system.

In general, though, I do agree with you.

Re:just too many issues (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 months ago | (#47804509)

(lowering the parcel on a rope, the drone never comes even near ground)

Until I grab the rope and pull the UAV to the ground.

Re:just too many issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804575)

If they go that route, you know there will be a break-free system to avoid exactly that, and to contend with other unexpected entanglements.

Go underground (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804017)

I'd rather see an underground network built for delivery. Avoids most weather conditions (if floods/mudslides/erosion/earthquakes are protected against). Avoids construction, traffic, and other road hazards and obstructions.

We have something similar where we deliver our waste, so why not stuff more waste in there as it stands? It's not like people really need this products so much that they couldn't get off their fat ass and get it themselves.

Monitoring the sky 500 feet up? (1)

aviators99 (895782) | about 2 months ago | (#47804025)

Seems impossible. This would have to be some peer-to-peer/mesh network model of traffic control. I hope they aren't really planning on using ground-based radar for this. It would require too much infrastructure.

Drone network down..alert..alert.. (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 2 months ago | (#47804027)

Imagine the chaos if the skies are full of these delivery drones - carrying shit everywhere - and for some reason they start dropping like flies. The random stuff dropping from the skies pelleting, in addition to the drones themselves.. surely this scene would fit into a sci-fi 'sharknado'-bad low-budget film as a surprisingly amusing scene.

I want to see it happen either way.

The best reason to ban drone delivery... (3, Funny)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | about 2 months ago | (#47804051)

Diaper services. The worst time to have a midair malfunction.

Re:The best reason to ban drone delivery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804359)

I think you're confused about how diapers work.
(Hint: Stores only sell unused diapers.)

Problem to be solved (1)

BillX (307153) | about 2 months ago | (#47804125)

People plinking a drone when it flies over their yard (or any public field) and getting a free Xbox or whatever it was carrying.

Re:Problem to be solved (1)

Paco103 (758133) | about 2 months ago | (#47804329)

It's like skeet shooting pinatas! This is so going to be so much better than clay pigeons!

Law or not.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804161)

I'll shoot them down every chance I get. Good luck since it's private property.

drones away (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 months ago | (#47804165)

If a drone malfunctions at 500ft, it's going to hurt when it lands on someone.

Re:drones away (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 months ago | (#47804515)

If a UAV of even 5 pounds drops from as little as 10 feet above your head, it can easily kill you.

Re:drones away (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 months ago | (#47804523)

If a UAV of even 5 pounds drops from as little as 10 feet above your head, it can easily kill you.

Five pounds of bitcoins?

Re:drones away (1)

sound+vision (884283) | about 2 months ago | (#47804559)

No, five dollars of kilograms.

Re:drones away (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 months ago | (#47804609)

That's a heavy distance to drop.

Standard Silicon Valley Approach Will Work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47804205)

1. Patent all possible methods of delivery for packages so that you drive down the stock prices of every courier company including FedEx that could deliver packages cheaper and safer.
2. Buy them all up with the money you have stockpiled not paying US taxes and hiring H-1B workers.
3. Buy enough congressmen and senators to shut down the US Postal Service.
4. Profit from forcing consumers to use your inferior, more expensive service.

It's a proxy for needing to revamp the post system (3, Interesting)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 months ago | (#47804227)

The drone delivery thing seems like a proxy for the fact that the regular postal system desperately needs a revamp to include more standardization. Basically, we need some system which acknowledges that parcel and package delivery is an increasingly important part of the process, and we want to receive things unattended.

You can only sometimes get this now.

If we had a system where we standardized mailbox sizes to some specification, and then licensed out some NFC/smart card system to let postal workers/delivery companies open them, then we might be getting somewhere. Sure, it's not perfect and it wouldn't be everywhere at once, but if you could simply buy the relevant thing at Home Depot and then delivery companies could be expected to use it, it'd be progress. Then the free-market innovates from there: various multi-tiered security products or the like.

Re:It's a proxy for needing to revamp the post sys (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 2 months ago | (#47804381)

Correct. Using delivery services in Canada, in my experience, were much more of a hassle and much more costly than they are in China. There is no chance drone delivery would be considered in China considering:

I can order something from jd.com this morning and it arrives this afternoon COD.
I can ship documents from the middle of China to Hong Kong within a business day or two for, in USD, a few dollars.
I can ensure everything I arrives promptly and get automatic updates when items I'm shipping are either picked up by delivery people, sorted at delivery centres, arrive at delivery centres, or any other significant milestone in the process.

US Postal System. Yes, rain, snow, wind, sleet, good luck with that.

Re:It's a proxy for needing to revamp the post sys (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 months ago | (#47804529)

If we had a system where we standardized mailbox sizes to some specification

Done, been that way all my life (I'm almost 40).

and then licensed out some NFC/smart card system to let postal workers/delivery companies open them, then we might be getting somewhere

You mean some sort of key ... Again, done, group boxes have had keys all my life.

but if you could simply buy the relevant thing at Home Depot

Home Depot sales mailboxes, all of which meet all sorts of standard requirements for US Postal Service deliveries.

You do realize that everything you've said has been around for, what, a century?

There are even standards for positioning of the mailbox, not just size.

I'm guessing you're not real observant and haven't noticed that all mailboxes are already the same size, basic shape and location.

People (2)

nick_davison (217681) | about 2 months ago | (#47804667)

What other issues do Amazon, DHL, Google, and other need to solve?

People. Bored, often too intelligent for their own good, people.

How long before trolls figure out they can drive their cars close enough and in such a manner that self driving cars execute lane changes to avoid accidents and pull off the freeway? Or until someone realizes they can jam the car's sensors and the poor passenger, with no access to a steering wheel, can't convince the car to pull out of the open parking spot it's convinced it's barricaded in?

How long before an Amazon delivery drone comes in to a house that's observed to regularly get deliveries and gets a blanket tossed over it before being purloined by nerds who just got a sweet free drone to try hacking?

Wind gusts happen. You can factor in for a typical wind gust, a severe wind gust, a once in a century wind gust. You can factor in for different types of hardware failure, for power loss, etc. You can factor in for trees, for tall buildings, for cables... They're finite problem sets.

But bored people? They're infinite.

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