Regulation, Tracking, and Delivery: 3 Industry 4.0 Drone Breakthroughs

delivery drones
Igor Zh. |

Industry 4.0 is all about leveraging new and existing technologies to improve existing systems, and drones are a natural vessel for that technological evolution.

Private companies are publicly (and not so publicly) putting huge investment dollars into delivery drones, and we think that the payoff will be amazing.

Companies ranging from e-Commerce to pizza delivery like Amazon and Domino’s Pizza want flying robots to distribute their products–and we want that, too.

Who wouldn't want a flying robot to deliver their packages? #dronedeliveryClick To Tweet

We think it’s a pretty good time in the world of drone technology.

So, with a little hard work and research, we’ve filtered our list down to the 3 areas that had the biggest breakthroughs: Regulation, Delivery Systems, and Tracking.

And if we want to do this from the ground up, then we need to start with regulation.

1. Regulation

When it comes to drones, regulation is all about safety.

That is air traffic safety, to be precise. And make no mistake, private companies and governments alike are working to get regulations put in place before the technology even goes mainstream.

But, as you would imagine, that process can be very slow, and very complicated. For example, drones fly low, which puts them right on the border between state and local governments. That could mean a lot of red tape for companies considering drone delivery systems.

Thankfully, we have non-profit organizations like the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS). NIAS is working closely with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and local governments in their state to try and figure out how to make sure that delivery drones are safe. NIAS also has a partnership with NASA to make an unmanned traffic management system for low-altitude flyers like delivery drones.

With a combination of public and private support, it seems likely that regulations on drones will get locked down soon. Which brings us to our next breakthrough. It’s time we get a sense of what shape drone delivery will actually take.

2. Delivery Systems

When you think of drone delivery, what does it look like? You might think of a small robot floating down from the sky and dropping off a package before floating back off and out of sight.

And that’s pretty awesome, in a vacuum. In the real world, accidents and mix-ups will happen, and so we need to come down to earth and think of the practicalities with delivery drones.

If you want a good example for practical drone design, then look to Amazon. They filed a patent for an AI-powered drone that can “conduct a speech dialog with a nearby person in order to request information and/or answer questions.”

Amazon LLC/ United States Patent and Trademark Office

And just think about it; you need to be able to communicate with whoever or whatever delivers your packages. What if it’s a wrong address? What if you want to reschedule the delivery?

What if the drone is a hazard, and needs to tell people to ‘stay away’? Giving drones a voice is a pretty innovative idea that could solve a lot of potential problems.

The patent also mentions a system that won’t release a package until the proper recipient is identified. That’s not something I would have thought about, but it’s certainly necessary if you don’t want your delivery stolen.

But how do you know that the drone is sending you the right package? Let’s answer that with our third breakthrough: Tracking.

3. Tracking

Originally, I thought that delivery drones would be loaded manually, but that was thinking small.

It’s much easier and more effective if the drones can fly through the warehouse and pick out the right package by themselves, after all. But how would they do that?

The answer may come from Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. RFID devices use electromagnetic fields and radio waves to remotely identify tags attached to objects. Recently, scientists and engineers at MIT created a drone-based RFID indexing method called the RFly system.

With RFly, drones can reportedly locate items with an item localization accuracy of 7.5 inches, which is pretty astonishing. This kind of tech has the potential to make warehouse-based drone delivery systems much more convenient and practical.

We’re ready for delivery drones in the sky, are you? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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