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UPS Is Starting To Test Drone Deliveries In the US (qz.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: UPS announced Sept. 23 that it has begun testing drone deliveries in the U.S. with drone manufacturer CyPhy Works. The two companies yesterday completed a test of delivering medicine from the coastal town of Beverly, Massachusetts, to Children's Island, a small island about three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. CyPhy's drone has night-vision capabilities, according to a release shared with Quartz. The test yesterday involved a trial situation where an asthmatic child urgently needed an inhaler, which was dispatched from the mainland to the island, arriving far more quickly than it would've taken a boat to get there. CyPhy's drone autonomously flew supplies over the ocean to a group waiting to receive them on the other end, although there was no actual child with asthma in danger. In May, UPS had announced that it was partnering with the drone company Zipline to deliver medical supplies to rural Rwanda, having invested nearly $1 million into the company. UPS has also invested an undisclosed amount in CyPhy. UPS told Quartz that the FAA was aware of its test, and Houston Mills, a commercial pilot with UPS for over a decade and the company's director of airline safety, was recently announced as a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. The committee is working with industry experts and companies to figure out how to safely integrate a network of commercial drones into U.S. airspace. You can watch the heroic footage of the trial run here.
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UPS Is Starting To Test Drone Deliveries In the US

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  • I was very skeptical about how this sounded until I actually read their experiment. This sounds like an awesome service and I hope they continue with it.
    • It does have its advantages in some situations, but it's also going to seriously pollute low-level airspace with drone traffic. I call it pollution, because it's like light pollution - definitely beneficial, but something is lost in the exchange.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yep. And I for one don't want to see flying drones and packages all the fucking time.

        • What happens if it's a windy day?

          • by gtall ( 79522 )

            Or start delivering at night..."Honey, what's that buzzing sound...hey, there's a drone outside our window!!" "Relax sweetheart, let me give you some instructions on how to fire this here shotgun."

      • The thing about remote rural areas is that the population density is low, thus the pollution as you say would be fairly rare.
        • There's a reason I likened drone pollution to light pollution - around population centers, there's now going to be this cloud of moderate density drone traffic. Doesn't affect "remote rural areas" where population density is low, you won't notice it in highly urban areas because they are already light and noise polluted beyond notice.

          It's the type of thing that you probably won't notice unless you want to enjoy the scenery in some particular way that isn't really accounted for by the commercial drone users

          • I guess I get the analogy, but it seems more of a complaint about general drone use, rather than one about the UPS conceptual implementation discussed.
      • This will defiantly change the way aircraft are handled. Maybe there should be a "drone space" about 100 above the ground to 200 feet depending on the terrain. It could probably be more. I believe aircraft have to stay above 400 feet unless landing or taking off.

        I wonder how long before we start seeing drones take the place of police in cars.

        • I wonder how long before we start seeing drones take the place of police in cars.

          You mean like this [buzzfeed.com], this [microdrones.com], and this [govtech.com]?

        • This will defiantly change the way aircraft are handled. Maybe there should be a "drone space" about 100 above the ground to 200 feet depending on the terrain. It could probably be more. I believe aircraft have to stay above 400 feet unless landing or taking off.

          I wonder how long before we start seeing drones take the place of police in cars.

          I wonder as well. I live in a wooded development, and it would be a real trick to have a drone fly anywhere but where the roads are. In a Farmer's field type development, it wouldn't be a huge deal, but you can't even see my place form the air. So there would have to be some 15 foot altitude flying.

          • I could see as part of a drone service you getting a set of Navigation Beacons that instruct the drone to
            1 In normal mode fly to marker GTW2576B
            2 Follow sub beacons 0A - 12
            3 locate Arrival Beacon AB5674FG3
            4 Land and sound arrival tones
            5 eject package UNDERHAND

            Hot tip if you need a semifragile package delivered have it marked [Please Throw Underhand] because if you think the drivers are bad you should see the apes that work in the depots.

        • Indeed this is being seriously looked into. For instance NASA [nasa.gov] (my latest gig!) and the FAA [faa.gov].

          Check out the Google an Amazon whitepapers here [nasa.gov].

  • We have an asthmatic child and live on an island. Should we keep extra athsma inhalers around? Nah. We'll just rely on other people using almost-futuristic technology to deliver medicine at the last possible second. That's the best approach.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The island is a YMCA day camp for children...

    • In this day of anti-vax, anti-science nonsense, it warms my heart to see parents taking appropriate precautions for the health and safety of their children. Kudos to you, sir or madame.

    • There's a lot more medical conditions and personal needs than just asthma. Are you suggesting every island automatically should be a fully stocked pharmacy?

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        No. It's more like "my kid sometimes needs a specific medicine, maybe I should be sure to bring some along".

        • Usually childhood is when you find out you have asthma, though. If you've got an island of 100 kids on summer vacation or in school, one of them is bound to develop it sooner or later. Sometimes this requires helicopter assistance!

          The case described is infrequent, sure. But it and things like it happen often enough it's totally worth the effort to develop a cheaper solution.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      First, it was a simulation. Not a real child in desperate need.

      Second, it can absolutely happen, especially if it is a family vacationing. You flippantly comment on keeping extra inhalers around, but inhalers aren't free. Not only that, they're not even cheap.
      Not only THAT, but insurance will damn-sure limit the number of inhalers you can get per month/year. If your child's doctor prescribes 1 inhaler per month, you get one inhaler per month. Oh, bullies threw it out the window of the bus? Better call

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday September 23, 2016 @08:05PM (#52950793)

    UPS is union so will they let this get far?

    • UPS is union so will they let this get far?

      If they start obstructing, UPS management will respond by rolling the drones out even faster.

      The longshoreman's union couldn't stop containerization, and the Teamsters will not stop the drones.

       

      • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
        Safety regulations might though. Having the occasional drone flight is OK in many areas, but routine traffic from delivery will require not just logging flight paths but planning them ahead of time and scheduling traffic. Establishing the infrastructure for that, and for the radar installations required for control and oversight, means this fantasy is just that. It is just the tech-geek version of the idea that dirigibles could replace trains; they can't, and the operational problems exceed imagined gains.
  • Do they provide umbrellas as well?
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Friday September 23, 2016 @08:13PM (#52950843)

    >> which was dispatched from the mainland to the island, arriving far more quickly than it would've taken a boat to get there.

    Drones are slow. Just wait until I launch my parcel cannon service. I'm thinking of calling it TNT Express.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday September 23, 2016 @08:46PM (#52950989)
    The toughest part has been programming the drone to both run over and then drop-kick the packages in the hedge.
  • I look forward to the day i can shoot these things with a slingshot and a rocks. Wear a ski mask and avoid getting caught!

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