Using drones to deliver online customer orders is still on Amazon’s agenda and Google has already carried out drone delivery tests in the Australian outback. Both companies also recently attended the NASA sponsored conference in California.
The stumbling block to the introduction of drones is can they be safely operated in our crowded airspace?
Amazon proposed unmanned remote controlled aircraft should be granted dedicated airspace providing:
• The delivery drones fly between 200- 400 feet.
• A no fly buffer zone is enforced between 400 – 500 feet to avoid collision with manned low flying aircraft.
• Computerized air travel control is developed.
Google’s Project Wing envisages using the existing cellular phone infrastructure as a communication method between the delivery drones, the ground control and possibly other manned aircraft flying above the drones. The delivery drones would be fitted with an Automatic Dependence SurvellianceBroadcast-Receiver (ADB-R) which would pinpoint the drone’s position using satellites and then broadcast this to the drone’s controller. Effectively being the eyes in the sky.
Google’s Project Wing agrees the drones require an air traffic control system and currently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a license for testing commercial drones but they have to remain in sight of their controller. This will not be commercially viable, so the development of a bespoke air traffic control system for commercial drones is paramount to their success. NASA is currently working with private companies to develop this.
The demand for increasingly faster deliveries for small, daily use items means drones are the perfect delivery vehicle to meet this need. They are much greener than conventional transport delivery methods and quicker than grid locked roads. So with commercial giants Amazon and Google committed to delivery drones, the science fiction is set to become reality in the next couple of years.