In this article, Mike Murphy talks about the recent developments of drone delivery services for the online company Amazon. Aerial drones are being made in order for Amazon to have an airborne delivery service. However, this improvement is limited because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that the drone be in the line of sight of the pilot who is controlling the drone, rendering this operation of delivery practically useless. If the drone can’t fly without the pilot tailing right behind it, there is no point in having the drones at all rather than a truck as it is now. Luckily in the week of Nov. 16, the FAA will be conducting tests to determine whether the drones are safe to fly in the crowded U.S. airspace while outside of the pilot’s line of sight.
The FAA has been working since May with Precision Hawk, the company that builds the drones, to figure out how to keep the skies safe. Precision Hawk will be carrying out the tests using LATAS, an avoidance system that the company developed. Precision Hawk’s first test will include a paraglider, operated by a human pilot. The goal of this test is to figure out how quickly a human pilot can react to the paraglider getting in their airspace. Another test will include the LATAS system, which should work as a detection system for the pilot, helping the drone avoid objects on its own. According to Tyler Collins, who leads the LATAS work at Precision Hawk, these tests should “measure the ability of a person flying the drone looking for airspace hazards visually against letting the drone make some decisions.”
The next step after flying beyond line of sight would be fully autonomous drones that could fly to their destinations on their own after being properly programmed. Companies like Google, which has its own autonomous cars in the works, are researching technologies for drones to use the same type of technology for flying.
Drone delivery progress is a fascinating idea that is taking into action very suddenly, and will, hopefully, soon become a reality. The fact that there may be robots who can deliver mail instead of someone who drives to every neighborhood to deliver packages will be a huge technological development. Although, the issue of package delivery weight may still be a problem that will need to be solved. Heavy objects may not be able to be delivered by drone if the weight is too much for the drone to be able to fly with, and may need to be delivered by truck instead, the “old fashion” way.
In my own experience, there are drones that people have built as hobbies, and are flown manually, with cameras attached to the drones so that the pilot can view where the drone is and where it is going without having the drone be in their line of sight. I think that companies should look to these sort of drones for their delivery system because they are highly effective, and people who are well-trained in the practice of flying and navigating through the sky through their drones’ camera instead of direct sight could try their hand at flying these drones for delivery purposes. This sort of development could be good for the advancement of this subject, but if drone delivery services do become a reality, then there will no doubt need to be a trafficking system so that drones that will cross paths do not crash into each other. This is one of the reasons for the LATAS systems, not only helping prevent drones from crashing into other objects, but into each other as well.
If all of these goals can be achieved, drone delivery systems will be a highly effective (not to mention awesome) way to receive mail everyday.