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posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 21, @10:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the monotone-of-the-evening's-drone dept.

Amazon Will Pilot Drone Delivery in California This Year:

All sorts of wacky solutions have been proposed for better package delivery, from an underground "hyperloop" network of pipes to swarms of last-mile robots dispatched from mothership vans.

Let's not forget ever-elusive delivery drones. The widespread assumption was that Amazon would be the first to have its packages take to the skies, but as it turned out, Walmart beat them to the punch, piloting drone delivery in North Carolina in 2020.

Now Amazon's catching up. The company announced this week that it's starting drone delivery service in Lockeford, California later this year. South-east of Sacramento in the state's hot, dry Central Valley area, the town had a population of just 3,521 as of the 2020 census. An Amazon press release says the town has "historic links" to the aviation industry thanks to a former resident who built and flew planes there in the early 1900s.

The company doesn't give additional details around why it chose Lockeford for the Prime Air pilot, though the town's rural location, the fact that most customers there have backyards for the drones to drop packages in, and the lack of numerous obstacles you'd find in a more urban or densely-populated area likely all factored in.

[...] On the safety front, among other measures, Amazon has built what it calls an "industry-leading sense-and-avoid system" to keep its drones from crashing into things—things like other aircraft, people, pets, or unexpected obstacles (like, say, a chimney or an antenna). When a drone's sensors detect objects within a certain radius of it, it automatically changes course, and as it descends to drop packages, it checks that the surrounding space is clear.


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by looorg on Tuesday June 21, @11:26AM (4 children)

    by looorg (578) on Tuesday June 21, @11:26AM (#1254858)

    How efficient will this really be? How large are the drones going to be? Will it be small drones or will it be some kind of Predator sized drones? Can they carry multiple packages? Having a single small drone delivering one package at a time will probably never really be very efficient. At best a luxury service for some JIT-deliveries. Otherwise there will be a lot of round trips to the "mothership" or warehouse to pick up new packages. So unless you are expecting there to be swarms large enough to block out the sun to deliver all the Amazon packages this just probably won't do.

    It's like having the mail man delivering one letter/package and then return to the warehouse to pick up the next letter/package and do that over and over again. That won't be very efficient. They need their bag/van/vehicle that is sort of stacked up with boxes ready to be delivered.

    So will it be like a drone-van comes to your hood and then they unleash the drone swarm, they return to the van and then they drive to the next hood?

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, @12:10PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, @12:10PM (#1254867)

    Amazon fresh™ stuff, frozen only last year, delivered directly into your (or your neighbor's) backyard (not long) before they thaw, for a subscription fee of only $50/w**

    ** Terms and conditions apply

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by lentilla on Tuesday June 21, @12:47PM

    by lentilla (1770) on Tuesday June 21, @12:47PM (#1254876)

    I remain somewhat sceptical but the idea is within the realms of plausibility.

    Assume the drone leaves the local depot, flies one mile, drops the package and then flies back. What's that, a five minute turn-around? Now multiply that by the time period they will be allowed to operate - assuming thirteen hours each day - which gives us 156 deliveries per day per drone. OK, they might need to pick up a freshly-charged battery with each delivery, and some deliveries will be problematic - but you only need one drone to service one hundred households at one delivery each day.

    The drones won't be cheap but they can't cost too much either (otherwise they are too much of an attractive target for thieves). Let's say they cost $10,000 each. That's $100 dollars per household. Let's keep the delivery rates reasonable; say a dollar a delivery; and you have your capital expenditure covered in just over three months. Every delivery after that is gravy.

    By which I mean to say: if the technical challenges can be overcome and the logistics worked out, last-mile package delivery by drone is well within reach today. Like I said above - I remain sceptical - but we have all the makings at our fingertips today, and; like the Wright Brothers and their airplane; it appears to be just a matter of hitting on the right combination.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday June 21, @01:22PM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Tuesday June 21, @01:22PM (#1254883) Journal

    So will it be like a drone-van comes to your hood and then they unleash the drone swarm, they return to the van and then they drive to the next hood?

    I think this will be the case, like a Protoss carrier launching drones. The business case is hard to make, though, unless using drones will mean fewer human drivers can make more deliveries, quicker. If it means the many drones cost Amazon more per delivery because of greater amounts of energy consumed, then it won't last.

    Now, if you had a low-altitude cargo airship that was literally like a Protoss carrier that deployed drones, then you could have one human pilot run deliveries for an entire region and never get stuck in traffic. You'd probably have to have a cargo altitude set up with the FAA or something (if it doesn't already exist--I'm no pilot and have no idea), but it could work very well.

    As a side note I would personally appreciate cargo traffic being moved to airships w/ drones because it would dramatically free up space on the roads for civilian traffic.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, @03:16PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, @03:16PM (#1254915)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Prime_Air [wikipedia.org]

    They could deliver single packages up to 10 miles from the warehouses, but they can also create drone towers that only store packages for drone delivery. Economy of scale and cheap recharge costs could make it viable. They could also charge more for 1-2 hour delivery.