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Old 02 December 2013, 05:48 PM
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Borg Amazon testing delivery by drones

Amazon.com Inc. is testing delivery packages using drones, CEO Jeff Bezos said.

Bezos said the drones, unmanned vehicles that fly through the air, could deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds. That represents roughly 86 percent of packages that Amazon delivers, he said.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/busine...,7236715.story
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  #2  
Old 02 December 2013, 06:12 PM
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I had a class with a guy in the military who worked with drones and was talking in a presentation about all the amazing civilian uses they can help with, it was pretty awesome. Of course, this being Portland, most other members of the class couldn't get over the idea that they were developed to be a weapon (and some people felt it would be used to spy on people) and were against any usage, including to help save lives such as being employed for search and rescue.

While drones may have a big part to play in our world, they'll have to shake the reputation they have before they can win over too many people I suspect.
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Old 02 December 2013, 06:31 PM
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I think they could likely shake the reputation with a name change. Call it "autonomous delivery" or something, and we'll stop thinking about drones.
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Old 02 December 2013, 06:36 PM
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This is my career field. And I'm convinced more than ever that this will be the way of the future. We are already experimenting with "mules" to ferry supplies to remote areas. The ability to drop 200 kg of medical supplies to a NGO fighting an outbreak in an area without the infrastructure to support aerial delivery is amazing.

I know that this is an Amazon announcement, but there are huge technological, policy, procedural and cultural barriers to overcome.

But it is looking good.
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Old 02 December 2013, 06:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
The ability to drop 200 kg of medical supplies to a NGO fighting an outbreak in an area without the infrastructure to support aerial delivery is amazing.
They don't have the sky?

I assume another advantage could (or is) that precision delivery does not require the active cooperation of the government, meaning there is a better chance that the medical supplies (or even food) would get to where it is needed rather than being held as a means of control.

Quote:
I know that this is an Amazon announcement, but there are huge technological, policy, procedural and cultural barriers to overcome.
As stated above, a name change could take care of the cultural barriers pretty easily. IMO, the biggest issue would be the safety as filling the sky with delivery UAV's would be a major issue, especially as the nature of most airports means that the delivery would be densest where the aircraft are concentrated and are flying lower than normal.
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Old 02 December 2013, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
As stated above, a name change could take care of the cultural barriers pretty easily.
That's what I get for typing with my brain not completely engaged.

I am talking about the flying culture. There are many, many people who do not want to operate their manned aircraft in airspace that is shared with unmanned aircraft. There is a prevalent culture of "no robots in the air" especially in domestic airspace. That needs to be overcome.

I'm not too concerned about the society's culture (not that I think it is not important, it is just not on my concern list).

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Old 02 December 2013, 07:16 PM
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Is the issue with unmanned, piloted drones too or just automated drones?
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  #8  
Old 02 December 2013, 07:17 PM
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Are the majority of Amazon's customers really within 30 minutes flight from a distribution center? How fast are these drones?
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Old 02 December 2013, 07:27 PM
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Due to the nature of population clustering in cities, I would think that's likely to be true.
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Old 02 December 2013, 07:27 PM
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The perils of the "third dimension" are not easily going to be solved. Just because you can go in any direction, while airborne, doesn't mean that it's a good idea to do so.

Years ago, one of my two best friends, a very rational person and a physicist by training, was excited enough to show me an article about a single-occupant flying contraption (essentially a helicopter style jetpack) which would imminently be available for those who could afford it. The "problem" of where it could and could not fly was addressed with GPS systems, as well as the promise that it could also make an emergency landing with no power. I was skeptical, and remain skeptical, and I haven't seen any of these flying around the countryside. So too I remain skeptical about drone delivery. For one, I'd hate to have a 5-pound payload fall from the sky and hit my moving car, while I'm driving it, because, well, such a thing is abound to happen, despite the best-laid plans. I figure that the sheer numbers that Amazon is talking about, would pretty much ensure that, sooner or later, even the most rare of failures would happen. Never mind the damage to the package, but a 5-pound (plus the weight of the UAV) falling brick is not my idea of fun.
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Old 02 December 2013, 07:27 PM
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They aren't going to get FAA approval to do this. The FAA isn't going to allow aircraft to fly low over neighborhoods and downtown areas much less drop things from them in populated areas - which is what I got from what little information is in that article.

There are too many hazards with this approach to be overcome in "the next four or five years."

~Psihala
(*"Package for you, sir!" BAM!)
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Old 02 December 2013, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Is the issue with unmanned, piloted drones too or just automated drones?
It is with any unmanned aircraft.

I flew in Afghanistan and there were people used to having Predator fly well over them, but did not want our smaller aircraft flying 1000 feet over them.
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Old 02 December 2013, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Bezos said the drones, unmanned vehicles that fly through the air, could deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds. That represents roughly 86 percent of packages that Amazon delivers, he said.
Uh, an individual package might generally be under 5 pounds but that is really pretty irrelevant. For efficiency reasons, you don't want the delivery vehicle to have to return to base after every package.
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Old 02 December 2013, 08:40 PM
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For a small vehicle that is operating autonomously, returning to base is not such as handicap as it would be for a large, drivered vehicle. And 5 lbs is a pretty small payload. According to my reading* of the Wasp III fact sheet, it has a payload capacity of over 13 lbs in a UAV with a 2 foot wingspan and is powered by electric motors. Sending out such a vehicle on single trips wouldn't be nearly as inefficient as it would be sending out a full-sized van.

Also, they could have a manned delivery vehicle that drives to the weighted geographic center of multiple deliveries that would then launch out successive series of drone deliveries.

* According to the sheet, the aircraft itself only weighs 1 pound, but can carry 13 pounds of payload. That sounds off to me.
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  #15  
Old 02 December 2013, 09:32 PM
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I did watch the video, and the first thing through my mind was "That drone could never get close enough to my house to make a delivery, because of the trees in my front yard." Next thing I thought, as I watched it drop the package on the sidewalk was "The only thing missing from this picture is rain." Then I got a picture in my mind of drunk, laughing teenagers standing on rooftops taking potshots at someone's Game of Thrones Blu-Ray combo pack, and things just started getting silly from then on.
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Old 02 December 2013, 10:27 PM
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Never mind potshots at the Blu-Ray combo pack. What about potshots at the drones? Is it going to be legal for a privately-owned UAV to fly over privately-owned property? For low-level flight - really low level - there's got to be some issue of sovereignty over privately owned land, as I don't imagine that a UAV is only going to fly over public lands - it takes away from that whole "as the crow flies" shortcut. I can easily see people objecting to having any UAV - no matter how benign - flying over their property at a treetop level.
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  #17  
Old 02 December 2013, 10:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
I had a class with a guy in the military who worked with drones and was talking in a presentation about all the amazing civilian uses they can help with, it was pretty awesome. Of course, this being Portland, most other members of the class couldn't get over the idea that they were developed to be a weapon (and some people felt it would be used to spy on people) and were against any usage, including to help save lives such as being employed for search and rescue.

While drones may have a big part to play in our world, they'll have to shake the reputation they have before they can win over too many people I suspect.
I could come up with at least a half dozen uses in wildland fire off the top of my head and several more with thought for various drones. Everything from a quick/cheap accurate mapping system for fires to using the bigger ones as a form of air tanker.
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Old 02 December 2013, 10:56 PM
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My initial thought was "those things are going to be target practice for hooligans with BB guns."
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Old 02 December 2013, 10:57 PM
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Old 02 December 2013, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firefighter_raven View Post
I could come up with at least a half dozen uses in wildland fire off the top of my head and several more with thought for various drones. Everything from a quick/cheap accurate mapping system for fires to using the bigger ones as a form of air tanker.
Indeed, they are also useful for search and rescue, boosting wifi signals, acting as a means of bouncing radio signals for increased communication for emergency services, having more accurate and up to date weather tracking, more accurate and up to date traffic tracking, etc, etc.

But, they are called drones, and they may fly over your house, and something like them is used overseas to kill people, and Obama may be spying on you.. That is enough to put off a lot of people, even with a new name (though obviously a new name wouldn't hurt).
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