We need you! Comments on delivery drone project

Hi all

It has been a while since we firstly presented the benefits of drone deliveries. Since then, we have been busy, really busy working on our prototype.

We got important comments from the community that motivated us to keep working on it. And finally we have something to show!

We have been working on this technology since late 2013, after much designing, redesign, proof of concepts and a lot of software development, we have reach a functional prototype which we think is the best solution for logistics problems!

It is a hybrid three propellers small UAS capable of long range and heavy payload operations. We hope you appreciate the incredible amount of hours dedicated to reach a final design and build the final pre-production prototype.

Although it may seem science fiction, we can say that deliveries thought drones are becoming real. It is known that Amazon and Google are working on it and that Matternet and Flirtey are making amazing progress (like this). They took the initiative and now DBX Drones is developing the technology that will contribute to make a parcel delivery system by air possible!

This development is intended for parcel deliveries and related companies, but we also want to open it to the consumers market (especially to the open source community) because it is fully modular (you could easily configure your vehicle) and it has a remarkable performance in terms of endurance and payload. See the definition of the product here and all its options!

Who knows which use you may find for it! Would we see peer-to-peer parcel sending in the future? We put the design and control software effort and you put your imagination!

The consumer option would be fully compatible with the Dronecode foundation initiative. See the survey to get more details. 

We are already working on the final production design and need you help to know how interesting is for you, not only as possible owner, but as a citizen that may enjoy the service of drone deliveries!

We have an enormous amount of work still to do, so that we offer the best possible product and find enough funding to launch the production. Anyway, we will show soon some more progress.

 

We know this is the developer community and your feedback is very valuable. That is why we would appreciate your comments in our progress! Please take our survey!

 

What do you think? Do you think this technology could make a parcel delivery by drone really possible? Would you take advantage of the great performance of this hybrid vehicle?

We would love to know from you and start a conversation where all of you can participate and contribute to this open source development.

 

Thank you!

 

PD: Visit us in dbxdrones.com

Views: 1548


MR60
Comment by Hugues on September 10, 2015 at 10:10am

Drone package delivey is now accessible to anyone, it is mainstream, thanks to Pixhawk & firmware v3.2.1. We have done it for fun on a one mile delivery distance, 1 meter precision package drop, using GPS (no IR beacon):

Comment by DBX Drones on September 10, 2015 at 2:22pm

Yes @Hugues I couldn't agree more: The technology is ready!

The benefits of package delivery is mainly in terms of the fuel cost reduction, that means that the farther you send the package the more benefit you get from using UAVs.

Not to mention the amazing application of medicines delivery to remotes places: That is where long range drones come!!
You mention 1 meter precision, what is remarkable: Do you think we should develop a precision landing and clearance system based on cameras? Do you think it is needed?

 

Comment by James Wright on September 10, 2015 at 6:51pm
Nice concept, I like the modular payloads! I feel for a delivery drone some sort of computer vision should be used because of of all the different environments that will be encountered, and the low level flight. Slam, or something, I say this because you mentioned in your survey about flying a Linux autopilot running apm.
Comment by DBX Drones on September 11, 2015 at 2:52am

@James Wright Glad you like the modular design!
Thanks for the feedback. Yes, we have the autopilot and a FMS (Linux computer) for comms, computer vision...
SLAM is an option. What do you think about stereo vision? Would it be enough?

Comment by James Wright on September 11, 2015 at 1:19pm

You would have to determine that in the flight testing. A stereo system is good, however you'll need to find a cheap board that supports two cameras or more. Inputting via USB is not a suitable option in my opinion, latency is poor.

Which board are you using? 

About coms, what is the plan for this? You mentioned using cellar connectivity, this is good, but of course not all areas have coverage. I am planning on developing a system to use multiple coms, such that, the linux PC can switch between them. A high speed data link is probably best, WIFI is not a good option in my experience. I know a few people are experimenting with modified WiFi:

open source: https://befinitiv.wordpress.com/wifibroadcast-analog-like-transmiss...

closed source?: http://www.wirelessdv.com/ 

This method seems to be the most economical at the moment in terms of hardware, however developing the software might be challenging. You could also retail a high gain antenna tracker system with dish, for areas without cell. 


As with 3g/4g you suffer latency, but, infact i feel the cell networks get too much of a bad rep. Real latency can be as low as 20ms so videos perhaps 200ms? I have actually seen systems which work on this quite well: http://www.skydrone.aero/fpv ???

I think a combination of methods is the best way to go.

You could always go analog, but why not innovate?

Comment by Vega Tech Group LLC on September 11, 2015 at 7:17pm
It is not the technology that is the issue here, it is the DOT, State DOT's & PUC's that regulate commerce you will have to contendwith

This will not be easy nor cheap to get the approvals and licensing to make commercial deliveries.

The FAA is the least of your problems. I spent many years in delivery & logistics, plus as a Teamster.

Now I work in imaging. Have a new sense & avoid system coming UAV's. Intended for dodging RPG's, but can be easily adapted for other applications.
Comment by DBX Drones on September 12, 2015 at 11:46am

@Vega Tech Group LLC 

We know legal issues are the limiting factor. It won’t be easy to convince the authorities of the viability of the technology but, man! The industry could save trillions!

I am intrigue about your CA system: Is it solely video based? What do you think about Lidars?

Comment by DBX Drones on September 12, 2015 at 11:47am

@James Wright 
Thanks for the reply. For the camera, we will use off-the-shelf products.

The board is RPI and probably will change to Odroid. About comms: 3G/4G dongles work fine but we will integrate something more robust. There is the option of integrating Satcomms for no-coverage zones. Of course we have to develop the switch as you said ;) Any idea?

I agree with you: WiFi (and radio) LANs are not the best (if you stay legal), even more for this kind of vehicles. Microhard has interesting WiFi systems ;) Thanks for the links!

I agree again on that: in order to make something robust we have to add redundancy and then: Problem solved!

A real pleasure man. Thanks!

Comment by James Wright on September 12, 2015 at 1:11pm

The raspberry Pi is nice because it has a camera integrated with the CPU (the pi camera), which is great, 50ms latency is possible. However the problem is it lacks computing power.

Odriod - especially the new xu4's have power however they don't support a real camera input. You can use USB but that suffers poor latency. Perhaps maybe there is something else, smartphone chips are great due to there camera inputs, qualcom makes some great boards, but they're on the steep side. Though boards with the 810 processer (i'm sure the 820 will be out soon) which is the most powerful smartphone processor are available. They support up to 3 CSI cameras, these boards are really nice.

Check them out:

https://developer.qualcomm.com/hardware/dragonboard-810

That might be a little steep but look around the site, i'm sure you'll find a good system. A system with a full 64 bit processor! LTE integrated with the processor. 

Here's processor specs:

https://www.qualcomm.com/products/snapdragon/processors/810

Again probably too expensive, though the 410 board might be better. It's still quite powerful, and has the 4g, cameras etc. These boards also support native sensors. 

I had a look at microhard systems, looks like they offer excellent products, however I don't think the price point would be excellent? Have you tried contacting them?

My idea for the switch would be running mavproxy and the various Dronecode Python libraries on the linux and handing it through that, you would need maxproxy running on the ground station too. You should be able to set it up through that, you can have an IP connection or whatever you want then.

Satcomm is rather expensive, and the bandwidth is terrible, it would be useful for updating waypoints and telemetry though over unlimited distance, but really what is the range you can physically fly? With a low speed data link you can have much range, like an LRS system. There is currently an open sourced project which is integrating mavlink with LRS check it out here:

http://www.itluxembourg.lu/site/

I doubt people are going to want to be paying $500 a month, when they could use an antenna tracker and get 50km range anyway, with a much higher data rate. However if you're going to use a tracker you might as well do 5.8 ghz with a circularily polarised dish system, you can use standard Wifi cards, that are in monitor mode to give you a good coms link. You could make a sub $100 link (not including the cost of the dish) with a high speed link with full HD video. Keeping overheads down is very necessary! Not only that is you'll be making sales from selling your tracker system instead of the satellite company. 

Redundancy is vital, specially as others were mentioning the legally, you get into a lot of hot water if something goes wrong. As for laws, not all countries are in the same state as USA, it is in fact possible to operate in the UK, however out of visual range you'll need a "detect and aviod system" which is quite hard to achieve... 

Even so with your versatile payloads this can be used for many other purposes which are legal at the moment. I feel we should press on with the technology and let the law follow, not the law dictate the technology. 

Back to redundancy, having a secondary flight controller would be good because you can possibly crash the linux one. You don't have to run the full autopilot either, you can run a $50 dedicated board just to get you home or at least till the primary reboots. Course this hard to setup but possible. It looks like you're aiming for a high caliper system. The easiest way to add redundancy is in your power systems for the controllers. 

This is my passion, and developing the technology is something that can help us all. So thank you for your commitment to this project!

Comment by Vega Tech Group LLC on September 12, 2015 at 1:27pm
In Ohio, my home state, you will have to petition the state and state your reasons for making deliveries in the state. If you get the OK, you will not be able to pick up at a location and deliver direct in the state. The package will have to leave the state for a day then come back for final delivery. This is just a very, very small piece of it.

I designed and built the wide FOV 12 & 16mm lense specifically for the sense & avoid system The cameras use Fairchild sCMOS sensors because they are low light & high dynamic range.

We are currently integrating LiDAR systems with hybrid hyper spectral/multispectral prism array cameras for FOPEN & large area mapping.

The sense & avoid camera system with many other systems besides LiDAR, using data fusion technology.

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