Drone deliveries will serve the future. But…

Advanced cutting-edge technologies are paving way for new innovative means of solving problems. Drones are not new. However, drones for transportation, drones for deliveries, drones as a communication channel and so on., are something new that many companies are trying out.

But what is not so clear in rolling out drones for bigger needs?

1) How would the air space be allocated? – Every country maintains an entity to allocate and monitor the airspace. It would be interesting to know how the airspace would be allocated for commercial drone deliveries and operators. Will there be a time slice on usage? or Will different operators be allocated different altitudes? Or Will there be a central agency like Drone Traffic Control for monitoring?

2) Who would monitor the air space? – ATC (Air traffic control) is used to guide the aircraft with services in both controlled and non-controlled airspaces. Similarly, we will need DTC (Drone Traffic Control) to monitor and guide the drones. However, unlike ATC which monitors aircraft that fly over a long distance, DTC will have to monitor several smaller aircraft at a lower altitude in small regions.

3) From what heights are drone deliveries safe? – Drones are permitted to fly within the 400 feet AGL (Altitude above the ground level). We will need an enhanced mapping system that can understand multi-dimensions, unlike our current common mapping system which doesn’t consider altitude as a mapping element. Understanding the terrain and altitude will be crucial for determining the type of drone deliveries.

4) Who would provide guidelines on what can be delivered through drones? – Current regulations and standards do not provide guidelines on how much weight a drone carries for its delivery. The weight a drone should carry also involves the safety considerations. There should be a centralized wing which determines what weight a drone can carry and what items a drone can carry as deliverables.

5) Do we need more than 5G for M2M? – More than direct B2C models, 5G may be instrumental for M2M communication channels. However, for a drone to talk to a drone within its vicinity, do we need to relay the communication through towers? Why not the drones talk to each other? This would reduce the latency even far better than edge computing. Also, with improved on-device machine learning and AI skills, real-time decision making help drones to be self intelligent on its own over time.

6) Do we need self-sufficient M2M with a decentralized communication system? – M2M communication channels are still evolving. Drone talking to drones maybe standardized now. But when it comes to direct M2M, a drone talking to any entity should be possible. Till then we would need low latency edge servers which would help machines understand each other by being a centralized system. Distributed computing in M2M will be possible only when any machine can understand any other machine protocol and language.

7) Do we need a worldwide drone consortium and standard protocols for a larger adoption and roll out? – A worldwide M2M consortium would be needed to define a common protocol for machines to talk to each other. This would enable larger interactions among devices and decide better actions. This is crucial for the larger adoption of drones for commercial purposes.

8) Would the drones run on ‘Truly’ clean energy? – Climate change and the need to act on climate change is pushing many countries to move towards cleaner energy production and consumption. We see cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc moving towards EV. However, the source of energy still may not be 100% carbon-free. Unlike, big aircraft which can not fit into the EV model at this stage, it will be good to see Drones completely operate from 100% cleaner energy because of its shorter range and smaller size.

9) How do drone operators validate the delivery points? – Are drone deliveries possible for everyone in a region? A region may comprise of a variety of home types – apartment homes, townhouse, condominium, ranch house, etc. In some home types, there may not be a possibility of drone delivery. Every address should be validated beforehand to understand the nature of drone delivery.

10) Last but not least, what are the safety guidelines for drone operations? – Yes, the drones should always be on the line of sight and send back the feed to the monitoring system. How do we handle when the drone moves away from the visual line of sight (VLOS)?. The drones should not fall and cause damage to person and property. How will the privacy be maintained even though the drones are going to fly over the top of your head multiple times a day? Who and which entity would monitor if in case there is a security breach by the drones?

Drones and the future

What are the new possible other functional areas that may rise alongside drone deliveries?

  1. Improved mapping system
  2. New small area local point of dispatch
  3. Improved M2M communication channels
  4. Increase in adoption of on-device ML skills
  5. New privacy laws and data processing

Please share your comments on what other elements would drive the future of drone deliveries.

Happy learning!

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