In the wake of the Amazon announcement, here's an interesting new concept from our friends at SkyCatch and others: "air highways", which are designated drone zones that would potentially allow their introduction before the FAA is comfortable with full integration into the national air space. A bit like designated autonomous car lanes on the highway, I guess:

Air Highway is a confederation of engineers, entrepreneurs and policy makers catalyzing a future where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) make the lives of people and businesses easier and more efficient. We’re creating a blueprint for UAVs to integrate with day-to-day life and city infrastructure, taking into consideration the technology, regulations and economics necessary to make this feasible. We’re proposing a 10-block pilot program backed by the city of San Francisco as the first implementation of this blueprint.

The Vision

We envision a circuit of aerial “roads.” We envision last mile deliveries unbound by traffic congestion. We also envision networked UAVs that smartly distribute their deliveries. But most importantly, we envision a new platform that sparks further innovation among entrepreneurs and businesses. Our goal is to make sure the sky is no longer the limit.

Technology

UAVs will navigate along aerial corridors lined by transponders to monitor the location of a vehicle at any time. UAVs will be fully automated with sensors to guide them to their destinations and automatic battery replacement.

Economics and Regulation

UAVs will be powered by clean energy and reduce city traffic congestion. Operators of UAVs will be subject to business registrations and tolls in order to support the city’s maintenance of the aerial corridor infrastructure.


 

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Comment by Harry on December 2, 2013 at 5:01pm

Do they need government to foot the bill for minimal infrastructure or are they just assuming the government will want to get its greedy hands in there?

Comment by ECODRONES on December 2, 2013 at 5:08pm

Ok, I see Jeff Bezos announcements etc...


WTF, this serious???

Comment by Alejandro Martin Pirola on December 2, 2013 at 5:53pm

Ecodrones, what is your problem? The idea is brilliant, the technology is not up to now, but soon.

Please I would like to hear your reasons to think its bullshit.

Comment by Gerard Toonstra on December 2, 2013 at 6:16pm

Maybe not for the us and developed countries, but for developing countries.

Developing countries have immense infrastructural problems and there are high costs associated with bringing sometimes very small packages (documents, sd cards, etc.) from one place to the other.

I don't think they can do this point to point. So they should focus on takeoff/delivery points which take the card/document to a redistribution center. From there it travels further to the next, avoiding the traffic choke point.

Today I traveled 7.1 km in the city and this took 50 minutes. That is 8 km/h. A drone can do 40km/h. Of course, these developing countries also have "motoboys", which weave through traffic much more easily, but their cost is increasing as well and they also are impacted by the huge traffic standstills.

The cost of recharging a battery vs. the cost of plowing a combustible engine through traffic is very different.

Time doesn't pay for taxi's or motoboys in these environments (tariffs are government regulated), so they're mostly paid for distance. So the increasing traffic has really started to not make it worthwhile.

Comment by Alejandro Martin Pirola on December 2, 2013 at 6:42pm

Gerard I don't know where are you from? Brazil?
EEUU has bike couriers in the big cities. There is not such a thing as developed/developing country reason behind. Logistics is the "why", and the "how" is a nightmare on every single metropolis around the world.

In the other hand Developed/Developing country is an issue regarding, regulations, investment and technology. 

I'm from Buenos Aires, Argentina we have a lot of motoboys and bikeboys but money, technology and regulations. 

Unmanned Aerial Couriers?
hell yeah, my only question is when?

Comment by Gerard Toonstra on December 2, 2013 at 6:50pm

There are significant differences between cities/countries that have (usable) public transport systems and those that don't. I lived in countries that have them and countries that 'have them', but only for a specific group of the population. The difference in service between them is immense (but mostly the time you actually are guaranteed to arrive).

Logistics is not the why, it's the 'what'. The 'how' is what these airbridges could contribute to.

I'm not claiming that these solutions should be developed anywhere. Merely that whoever has the authority and political means to implement them on developing country should go for it. You know what I mean there :).


Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on December 2, 2013 at 11:42pm

Its all true but the delivery size of choice is a NATO standard pallet there are a couple of systems that can do this already, these will win through regulation I am sure. The next really cool thing to own would be a fleet of C208 Caravans operating autonomously. No more hour building youngsters flying through the night.

Comment by Alejandro Martin Pirola on December 3, 2013 at 12:02am

Gary, that's right, but I think Amazon is looking for a "last mile" like solution. Fast means high frequency small and directional.

Bigger the shipment bigger the profit, risk, lower the delivery frequency and then a human pilot worth it.

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