A small Australian team came up with a drone delivery solution that might answer the questions currently raised by the online giants like Google and Amazon—namely, how can we design a working system to allow drones to deliver goods safely and efficiently without the need for a large landing space and at least one recipient on the scene to wait on their arrival?
Right now, the still experimental drone delivery systems can be roughly divided into three categories:
1). The drones that use a cord to lower your goods down to you.
Example: Google’s Project Wing.
Potential Drawbacks: Someone has to wait on the drone’s arrival in order to collect the goods; the cord might get tangled up with wires and tree branches.
2). The drones that land on your backyard and release the goods on the ground.
Example: Amazon Prime Air.
Potential Drawbacks: The whirling propellers can accidentally hurt your children or your pets playing nearby—also, you need to “have” a backyard in the first place!
3). The drones that drop the goods in the air with a parachute attached to soften their landing.
Example: Many. Let’s start with the mischievous dad who used a drone to drop a package of candy to his son’s kindergarden class (please see below for the demo video).
Potential Drawbacks: A strong wind can blow the goods away. Also, you still need a relatively large landing space for this delivery method.
So how does the Australian team intend to solve these tricky problems?
The Skynet, as called by the Australian team, actually starts with a simple idea: designating a special container for the “mail carrier” to zero in once they confirm you are indeed the intended recipient, much like how the traditional mailbox works….Only now that the post officer who can distribute mail by your last name on the apartment mailbox is replaced by a whizzing drone.
So this is where a purpose-built, lockable receptacle identifiable by a special bar code (called “Skynet ID”) will come into play. On top of the container, there is a catching net with its four corners each marked by a LED indicator. When the carrier drone flies by (using GPS to pinpoint your location), it will first scan the bar code to ensure it arrives at the correct box, and then it will triangulate the catching net’s position with a little help from the indicators; after that, the drone will position itself about 1 meters high (about 3.3 feet) over the opening to drop the goods safely into the box.
Notice that throughout the whole process, the box is unattended, and all can be done within a relatively small space high up an apartment building.
Sounds fun? Now, the Skynet delivery system is not without its flaws, either. For example, an online commenter points out that the netted receptacle doesn’t seem to be waterproof, which can prove disastrous in rainy countries—without added protection, your online order will very well turn into a miserable drenched mess. Furthermore, the Skynet receptacle has to be specially installed by a professional to ensure that it’s completely level and that its dimensions all fit the necessary standard, which of course will bring on additional costs and difficulties.
However, with a future of humming drones carrying goods to our very doorsteps fast approaching, the Skynet team seems to bring up some interesting ways to rethink about drone delivery technology—by taking us back to the roots of tradition.