comscore Pizzas, blood, drugs, and more: 5 experimental drone deliveries around the world
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Pizzas, blood, drugs, and more: 5 experimental drone deliveries around the world

Drones or UAVs are touted as the next big thing in transportation and given their compact size and quick delivery capabilities, companies are experimenting with the technology for users in a variety of fields.

Project Wing

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles have officially taken off in the commercial sphere in Rwanda where these little flying objects are being used to deliver blood. Rwanda is one of those regions where poor infrastructure makes it difficult to reach out to those in need of healthcare. With the help of a Silicon Valley startup Zipline, the Rwandan government this week announced ‘the world’s first national delivery system’, which will be used to deliver blood to patients in remote areas of the country. Also Read - Swiggy to soon deliver your food order using drones in India

This new mode of transportation might offer coverage in remote areas, dodge traffic snags in cities, and offer prompt deliveries of objects, but they also have their own set of shortcomings. By far, commercial drones are capable of offering a flight time of up to 28 minutes and can carry an average payload of 500g – 1kg and go up to a maximum of 20kgs for heavyweight drones. While the US has been slow in responding to the commercial need of drones in healthcare, e-commerce, or pure hobby purposes, a country like Rwanda has embraced the technology in full faith. The custom-built ‘Zip’ drones in Rwanda are capable of flying up to 150km, round trip, and carry up to 1.5 kg of blood. The delivery of blood in distribution centres is just one of the many ways commercial drones are being used in a number of countries. Although package delivery drones are still years away from getting regulatory approvals, let’s take a look at what all commercial drones are carrying or planning to carry worldwide: Also Read - COVID-19: Drones to be used to detect Coronavirus from the skies

1. Burritos Also Read - Facebook tired to use bird-like small drones to bring internet to remote areas

Project Wing

Google’s parent company Alphabet works on a number of ambitious projects including the self-driving car and commercial drones. As part of its Project Wing, the company joined hands with Chipotle to deliver burritos to Virginia Tech campus by drone. Late September, the company initiated its experiment where drones fly from a food truck and lower goods at a location marked in the grass fields. The tests will help the company determine how drones should operate in public airspace but for students at the university, it is one of the coolest and high-tech way of eating stuffed burritos. Students grab a number from a ticket machine and wait till their number is called. They are also required to pay an $5.99 for their meal from the sky. Ground staff escorts the students to a holding area that is about 15 feet from the drop site until their burrito arrives and then they are again escorted to location to retrieve it. All the orders are delivered from a hidden Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. food truck that is located somewhere in the distance. Project Wing hopes to deliver food, batteries, and other emergency supplies to people in disaster areas using the technology. Image Courtesy: Alphabet/Project Wing

2. Pizzas

Earlier this year, pizza restaurant chain Domino’s and a drone delivery startup Flirtey tested a pilot program in New Zealand. The first test involved sending pizza from the store to an airfield. However, the restaurant chain plans to include more of store to home deliveries. The dream behind drone delivery of pizzas is where the customer places an order and the drone delivers the extra-large pizza right at the doorstep. There will be no fumbling for cash, no human interaction at all. When it was first tested, it was said that the official service will be launched later this year. With just two months left for the year to come to an end, we are yet to see the service commercialize. Video Courtesy: Domino’s New Zealand/YouTube

3. Goods delivery

Work on Amazon’s Prime Air drone service is already underway and akin to its Prime delivery service, the Prime Air drone service also promises to deliver goods in about 30 minutes of placing the order. These drones are capable of flying at an altitude of 100 meters and reach speeds close to 100km/h. While it is still a concept drone delivery system, the Amazon Prime Air drone is ideally meant to be the last resort in the delivery hierarchy and meant only for emergencies. Interestingly, the Amazon Air drones feature integrated cameras and sensors which help them dodge birds and other airborne obstructions. Video Courtesy: Amazon/ YouTube

4. Medical supplies

The world’s largest parcel service, United Parcel Service (UPS), collaborated with CyPhy Works way back in September to test the power of drone delivery. Under the pilot project, the company was able to successfully deliver an asthma inhaler to a children’s summer camp on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. While the potential for drone deliveries is limitless, but for UPS, the current focus is on using the devices to fly in remote locations to deliver emergency supplies. Even in the blood delivery service launched in Rwanda, UPS helped ship all of Zipline’s equipment to the country. Video courtesy: Associated Press/YouTube

5. Illegal supplies to prisoners

Who would have imagined that other than delivering food, clothes, and medical emergency kits, hobbyists could also use the devices for delivering illegal substances to prisoners! Last year, miscreants used drones to drop heroin into the exercise yard of an Ohio prison. In April, a prison in London recorded a drone delivering drugs directly to an inmate’s window. What makes flying these drones easier is the stark surroundings near prison areas. While there is no clear indication as to how many drones fly each year, supplying drugs, pornography, and even cellphones to inmates, law officials are trying to intercept criminals from doing so. In a recent report, it has been found that most of these drones are readily available on e-commerce platform such as Amazon and given the hazy government rules about its usage, it becomes an easy job. Video Courtesy: Dedrone/YouTube

Commercial use of drones is still years away from federal regulation, yet hobbyists are exploring the potential of the unmanned aerial vehicles to their maximum, sometimes even exceeding the legal boundaries. On October 2, militant group ISIS used drones, apparently laden with explosives which killed two Kurdish soldiers. These drones were found to be available on sale on Amazon. ISIS has been using drones for surveillance purpose for a long time, however, layering it with explosives is something which cannot be overlooked. Some officials pointed out that it was the first time ISIS used a drone as an explosive device, raising concerns about the easy purchase and misuse of drones.

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  • Published Date: October 15, 2016 3:30 PM IST
  • Updated Date: October 15, 2016 3:35 PM IST



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