Amazon is set to bring a new drone delivery system to market at some point within the next few years. Will this project change deliveries - and UAVs?
By now, the fact that online retail giant Amazon intends to send a fleet of drones into the air in order to deliver packages is old news, with many people likely passing it off as merely an interesting concept.
Amazon actually aims to create this transport network, however, and it could arrive sooner than expected.
Known as Amazon Prime Air, the project will (ideally) get packages to customers within 30 minutes or less, thanks to the utilisation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Interestingly, Amazon claims that once the program is operational, the safety and efficiency of the transportation system overall will be improved.
What's more, Amazon expects that instead of the Sci-Fi image many conjure to mind right now, a drone flying down the street will be as normal as seeing a delivery truck pulling up to the front door.
Before that day comes, however, there are a few challenges to overcome.
Hot and cold, high and low
In an interview with Yahoo! writer David Pogue, Amazon's vice president for global public policy Paul Misener explained some of the challenges and benefits of drone delivery. Interestingly, he pointed out the need to think about climate in the US. The country is home to both arid and wet regions, meaning any drone delivery system will have to be able to operate without trouble.
He also noted the challenges of figuring exactly where these drones would be able to operate. Obviously, airspace can already get quite congested, with helicopters and private aircraft transiting across the skies every day.
Mr Misener pointed out that Amazon has considered a possible solution: keep manned aircraft above 500 feet and have 400 to 500 feet a no-fly zone. For the drones, 200 to 400 feet would act as a fast transit zone.
Working out some of the major drone challenges here could prove a boon for the rest of the UAV industry. For example, solving the issues of navigating in a rain storm could open up a number of opportunities for other industries to utilise the vehicles.
Prime Air is still some time away. While the technologies are certainly ready, with drones flying high across the globe, the regulatory approval required to actually have a fleet of drones in the air is slightly more difficult to effect.
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