Amazon Drone Deliveries?

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Amazon Drone Deliveries?

Postby Karlsweldt » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:06 am

Recently in the news, Amazon.com is thinking about making 'local' deliveries by using drones. News Story:
The drones are called "octocopters" because they use eight small motors to power them. Reportedly autonomous, relying on GPS and other navigational means. Capable of lifting up to 5 lbs of weight, and having maybe 10 mile distance, it may be feasible.. if in rural areas! But what about apartment or other deliveries? Then the possibility of someone being injured by the drones? All for the sake of touting "instant" delivery for some items?
The biggest obstacle will be FAA approval of their use!

What do you think of their plan?
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Postby Roach412 » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:54 am

in highly dense areas, no not so much - simply because what's the point of a drone moving a 5lb package around when it's highly likely deliveries for many others are also required in the same area?

in more suburban applications, i think it's possible, but again there's typically a significant demand for package/parcels so singular delivery isn't very efficient.

my guess would be this would be more of a niche use, or for expedited transport/delivery. i like the idea, but...until they can move more weight, and have a long operating range/time - i can't imagine it would provide much value beyond being pretty cool.

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Re: Amazon Drone Deliveries?

Postby BrevCampagnolo » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:05 pm

Karlsweldt wrote:...The biggest obstacle will be FAA approval of their use!

What do you think of their plan?

I think Bezos is smoking crack. I know the FAA too well. The first thing they'll have to do is create a new category of air carrier service, because the UADVs (unmanned aerial delivery vehicles) just won't fit in any of the existing categories. And because the FAA exists entirely to make the routine complex.

Airspace use is going to be a major problem. So is traffic/collision avoidance. The German government currently has the technological lead in developing UAVs that safely can interact with manned aircraft, but that's still years away from being ready, even for military use. And that might never be feasible outside of controlled airspace (i.e., my front lawn) because general aviation aircraft -- which are allowed to go anywhere they want, outside of controlled airspace, without asking permission or talking to anyone -- are not required to have many of the safety bells and whistles commercial carriers must have, such as the "traffic collision avoidance system." The only entities I know of currently operating autonomous UAVs in the real world, outside of R&D roles, are the USMC's K-MAX unmanned delivery helicopters in Afghanistan, and the Navy's carrier-based X-47s.

What do these two locations have in common? 1. Not much conflicting traffic, and 2) the military OWNS the airspace. At least whenever the carrier is at sea.

Each UDAV will have to carry, I am sure, liability surety in the millions of dollars (insurance or bonding).

And something else the FAA will have to consider, before granting permission, is that they can't do this exclusively for Amazon. What if it works out so well that Wal-Mart wants in on the deal, too. An then Safeway (groceries). And then McDonald's (fast food). They can't play favorites, nor can they accept a tasking that will overwhelm their capabilities and, in the doing, endanger their primary charter, which has nothing to do with Amazon or UAVs.

So I think Bezos is talking out his toches. But hey, it got his name in the news, so good job, Jeff!
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Postby Karlsweldt » Sat Dec 07, 2013 7:39 am

What if it works out so well that Walmart wants in on the deal, too. An then Safeway (groceries). And then McDonald's (fast food).

Indeed! What about pizza delivery? Can you just imagine a "pie in the sky" scenario!?!
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Postby BrevCampagnolo » Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:37 am

Karlsweldt wrote:
What if it works out so well that Walmart wants in on the deal, too. An then Safeway (groceries). And then McDonald's (fast food).

Indeed! What about pizza delivery? Can you just imagine a "pie in the sky" scenario!?!

Dude, you'd better copyright that ...it's brilliant.

BTW, mods, could someone please delete my quote of my own post? That was the gin talking.
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Postby Karlsweldt » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:58 am

As you asked, Post: Fri Dec 06, 2013 3:32 pm deleted!
Indeed, the "pie in the sky" is novel.. but an old adage. Similar to many others, like "woodchucks chuck wood" or "pigs can fly". Can you "catch nine winks" with a net? Can you "tickle a fancy"? But what the heck is a "fancy".. some animal that likes it? :lol: :lol:
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Postby BrevCampagnolo » Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:35 am

I'd had heard the adage before, but I thought this was an especially clever application.

I just picked up a copy of the January issue of Aerospace America with an article detailing the bumpy road ahead for unmanned a/c. Bezos got the 2015 date from a 2012 law that requires the regulations be in place by then. But regulations can prohibit just as easily as they can permit. They speculate that initially all unmanned flights will be limited to line-of-sight of the operator, which rules out the 10 mile delivery range (unless the operator is in a really, really high observation tower), and autonomous flights. Plus the a/c must weigh less than 55 lbs (although later in the article they make references to a 55 kilo limit, so I'm not sure which is correct, although I have yet to see a Federal Aviation Regulation that used metric units), which will severely curtail payload weight.

If you've not been around them much, you can't believe how inefficient helicopters are compared to airplanes. Very few turbine-powered copters can lift their own "nominal weight," weight empty except for essential fluids. And electric motors are far less powerful than turbines, plus electric copters lose a lot of payload because the require heavy batteries. I didn't invest a lot of time researching this but a couple of 'hits' indicate the best electric copters can lift less than 20% of their own gross weight (even a wimpy little Cessna 152 can manage >50%). I'm sure Bezos has his finger on the pulse of what's happening so I presume his 5# package was based on what's being proposed, which works out a bit less than 10% of a 55# electro copter.

What is written as "see and avoid" (which is the cardinal rule of the visual flight regs) in the current FARs becomes "detect and avoid" for the UAVs. The problem is, there's not yet been much progress even in writing the standard for detection and avoidance. The article mentions one robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon suggested using the same transponder system required in commercial a/c, which includes a computer called TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System).

When there is a possible conflict between two TCAS-equipped a/c, their computers talk to each other, discussing what their status is -- whether they are capable at that instant of climbing, descending, turning, etc -- and mutually agree on the best and least disruptive courses of action. Then they announce their decision(s) to the respective cockpit crews in synthesized voices, and indicate what is to be the new course/altitude/airspeed on the flight instruments. The pilots by law are required to comply. The problem is, that gizmo will suck up a healthy portion of that 55 lbs (I figure at least half). And it is an 'active' system, which means more draw on the batteries and a shorter range. And general aviation a/c aren't required to have them, which means it would be near as makes no difference useless in low altitude flight.

To make matters muddier, 43 states already have proposed or passed 118 separate bills controlling use of UAVs in their airspace. And this is before there's really any threat of the skies being darkened by these things. So imagine how many more roadblocks the states will throw up once the possibility is more tangible, and the usual Luddites and fearmongers start stirring up the general populace. There's even one town in Colorado that licenses UAV hunting because the bunny huggers have been using UAVs to shoo game animals away from hunters.

Kinda prophetic that Bezos's demonstration flight couldn't even take place in the US because the FARs limit such flights to amateur use only.
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Postby Karlsweldt » Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:41 am

Rules about avoiding in-flight collisions are strict.. and today most aircraft have computer-controlled 'eyes' looking all around, and transponders to instantly ID themselves to others. Planes approaching another craft head-on or from angles must adhere to the "one climb, the other drop" rule in an instant. While the human brain is considered more powerful than any computer, it is very slow in decisions.. so the computer wins this feature. And usually avoids a mid-air collision. But birds and small drones don't have this virtue.. so are more likely to cause an accident.
True, electric 'copters don't have the power to lift large loads.. due to excess battery power needs and weight burdens. While an ant may be able to carry more than 5x its weight long-time, a human cannot carry more than twice its weight.. for only a short time! Same is true with RC drones and similar. The smaller "toys" may have up to 10 minutes flight time, while larger ones have need of fuel-powered engines to stay aloft longer.
Indeed, might be an idea for short-distance instant delivery.. per VFR (visible flight rules). But for longer distances, only a fully-certified craft would be allowed. Those RC drones used by the military are equipped with transponders and decision-making computers independent of the operator!
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Postby BrevCampagnolo » Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:03 am

FAA Grounds Valentine’s Flower Delivery Drone

A Michigan florist decided to press their luck and test the FAA's ban on commercial use of drones. I'm guessing they figured if Bezos could cash in on a little free advertising, so could they.
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Postby Karlsweldt » Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:58 am

Some of those "Octocopters" can cost upwards of $16,000.00 USD!
Yes, they are in use for recon and survielance, and are operated in accordance with VFR (Visual Flight Rules). But they don't have on-board navigation devices as commercial planes do! So, wandering into commercial air space can be a real hazard.
Most of the "toy" models cost less than $100.00 USD and can be fun.. as long as safety is the first concern.
Will be a long debate on whether the FAA approves their widespread use.
Must the operator also have a certain type of pilot's license?
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