Drones

Drone Delivery Wars

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Remember Prime Air? Amazon’s grand plan to deliver packages via drones with a promise of deliveries in 30 minutes or less.  The vision was unveiled by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with much fanfare way back in December 2013, but has since remained one of those big ideas that has failed to lift off, literally.

More than two years later, Amazon Prime Air is still stuck in legal limbo with regulators in a bind over safety concerns. Until specific regulations for commercial use of “small unmanned aircrafts” are finalized, commercial drones cannot take to the sky.

But for Amazon Prime Air to become a reality, there are other challenges that need to be addressed. One specific shortcoming is a problem that rival Google seems to have found an answer to.

Amazon Prime Air Drone with package in an Amazon warehouse facility just before takeoff for delivery.

Amazon Prime Air Drone with package in an Amazon warehouse facility just before takeoff for delivery.

Amazon’s concept requires that you are at your delivery address at the time the drone is about to drop of your package. Meaning, forget about a change in schedule or friends inviting you out for drinks last minute. Unless you want to risk someone else walking away with your package, you’ll have to stick around until the Amazon drone shows up with your order.

Google recognized this and has come up with an idea that would allow you to order goods online and have it delivered to your doorsteps even without anyone being home. Just days ago, the US Patent Office granted Google a patent that provides us with a unique insight into how Google is planning to win the drone delivery war.

Drawing of a mobile delivery receptacle as submitted by Google to the U.S. Patent Office.

Drawing of a mobile delivery receptacle as submitted by Google to the U.S. Patent Office.

So how is Google planning to solve the Amazon Prime Air dilemma?

The answer is simple and brilliant at the same time.

The basic idea involves a “mobile delivery receptacle” developed to work in tandem with delivery drones.

Details on the receptacle are still somewhat murky. The image filed with the patent shows a box on wheels.  But to spark your imagination, just think of the delivery receptacle as an R2D2-like droid from Star Wars.

You keep the droid at home. After the droid is notified of a pending delivery, it would move outside to communicate with the drone in mid air. Infrared beacons would then be used to guide the droid to a precise meeting point for the drone delivery. After the package is received, the droid would then transport the package to a secure location, such as your garage. Safe and sound while you are out enjoying the evening with friends.

Project Wing

Both inventions are part of an initiative codenamed Project Wing, the latest project to come out of X, Alphabet, Inc.’s top secret research and development facility.

Alphabet is Google’s parent company and X is essentially a high-tech lab setup to develop and test all their new cool and groundbreaking technology gadgets.

Other top secret X projects that have come out of the shadows include, “Glass” for augmented reality, “Loon” for Internet-by-air-balloons, and “Driverless Cars”.

Like Amazon, Google is keen on getting a head start in the drone delivery business. It has ambitious plans of getting from concept to reality by 2017.

The company has been working on Project Wing for two years already, its existence confirmed by no less than Google Cofounder Sergey Brin in August 2014. Brin also confirmed a drone-testing facility in the Australian Outback with a hybrid drone that can take off vertically (like a rocket) and then rotate mid air to a horizontal position to fly around.  

Why Australia, you may ask. The answer is simple. The Outback is a big empty place, except for some kangaroos and the occasional tourist. This allows the Australian government to be way more relaxed around unmanned aircrafts in its airspace.

Drones

Drones fly luxury Dolce & Gabbana handbags on the runway

Who needs models when you have drones?

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Dolce & Gabbana stepped up their game this year during their fashion show in Milan. The Italian luxury fashion house flew drones carrying handbags on the runway, stunning the crowd.

See the spectacle for yourself:

The show ran nearly an hour late for the big surprise. According to Fashionista who attended the event, “Signs and announcements in several different languages pleaded multiple times for audience members to turn off their personal Wi-Fi and hot spots.”

Of course, it isn’t easy to ask a 600-strong audience to turn their internet connections off before a spectacle, resulting in these quadcopters flying a bit craggy. It’s possible that those reluctant to follow the organizer’s requests caused an interference with the drone flights. Who wouldn’t want to capture a surprising performance and share it on social media? We live in the social media age, guys!

But the fashion house was prepared for any unfortunate accident if the drones were to malfunction and crash on someone’s head. People dressed in white walked alongside the drones, ready to intercept or offer help if an incident occurred.

Fortunately, the show went on without a hitch. As the drones buzzed off, actual human models were back on the runway wearing D&G clothes for the Fall Winter 2018/19 collection. Maybe it isn’t time yet for technology to enter the world of high fashion, but it’s a great start.

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Drones

Airbus’ drone taxi successfully flies autonomously

This is the future!

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Just last month, European aerospace company Airbus flew its autonomous air taxi for the first time. The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft hovered for 53 seconds on its own and we only got a glimpse of it through photos. Well, the company has just released a video showing what it’s capable of.

A giant drone taking off and hovering for less than a minute before coming back down isn’t really an astounding sight. Although, this is quite an achievement since it’s a totally different aircraft from what Airbus has been producing and the fact that it’s all-electric is already a feat in itself.

As you can see, this less-than-a-minute demonstration of autonomous flight is actually a breakthrough since it’s one of the first to ditch the use of an engine or a gas-electric hybrid and relies solely on a battery to fly. The company said it aims to produce an array of autonomous eVTOL aircrafts that fly from rooftop to rooftop to help alleviate traffic on the road. Airbus envisions this through the use of the latest technologies.

“Our goal is to democratize personal flight by leveraging the latest technologies such as electric propulsion, energy storage, and machine vision,” said Vahana Project Executive Zach Lovering.

It might not happen anytime soon, but we’re one step closer to realizing a future where you hail flying taxis that don’t need their own drivers.

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Drones

Kentucky Flying Object is a drone from KFC India

Flies longer than a chicken can!

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KFC really knows how to tickle our gadget fancy. Last year, the fast food chain produced their own smartphone; now, we’re looking at a drone you can assemble using the packaging of their latest chicken wings flavor.

For a limited time — from today until tomorrow to be precise — select KFC branches around India are offering the DIY drone for “select orders of Smoky Grilled Wings.” Although the website doesn’t specify how many are being given away, chances are you’ll have to fight for one.

Colonel Sanders would have definitely scratched his head at the thought of such a product, but we can’t deny that this is all sorts of awesome.

You can see it in action here:

KFC provides instructions on how to assemble the drone on their website. Once complete, you can control the KFO (yes, Kentucky Flying Object) through Wi-Fi using your smartphone and an app.

They aren’t kidding calling this “the most fly meal ever.” If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one, make sure to lick your greasy fingers first.

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