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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 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.

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