[Just adding video and commentary to what was covered in the earlier post] I'm usually pretty skeptical of "drone delivery" concepts, given that most are just marketing stunts. But new Australian startup Flirtey has at least addressed (if not solved) some of the most obvious problems with the model. Their textbook-delivery concept would lower a package from a cable, rather than attempt to land (possibly on someone's head) and claims some unspecified "obstacle avoidance" system. No word on how they're going to extend the range of the multicopters further than what would much more easily by accomplished by a delivery bike. 


From TechCrunch:

As countries around the world gradually lift regulations on the use of commercial drones, a new startup called Flirtey hopes to turn Australia into a worldwide industry leader for the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in e-commerce deliveries. Flirtey plans to launch commercial drone delivery of textbooks purchased from Zookal for domestic customers in 2014 before expanding to the U.S. in 2015. The startup says this marks the first use of fully automated commercial zones for package delivery in the world.


Ahmed Haider, CEO of Zookal and co-founder of Flirtey, says Australia is in a unique position to pioneer the global UAV industry because of regulations by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) designed ..., as well as the continent’s geography, which ranges from densely populated cities to vast swathes of rural Outback.

Zookal will use Flirtey to send parcels for free and claims deliveries can be made in as little as two or three minutes, compared to two or three days for traditional shipping methods. Upon arrival at an outdoor delivery destination, Flirtey’s drones hover and lower the parcel through a custom delivery mechanism that is attached to a retractable cord. Real-time GPS tracking of each drone’s location will be available through the Flirtey app for smartphones.

One of the reasons Zookal decided to pursue commercial drone deliveries was because of concerns over the cost and performance of parcel shipments as its business grew. Haider says the use of UAVs will cut Zookal’s costs from $8.60 AUD to 80 cents AUD per delivery.

Flirtey’s goal is to present UAVs as a speedier, cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional delivery methods. One of the startup’s biggest challenges, however, is the public perception of drones. In Australia, critics have described the UAVs as a “safety and privacy headache.” Though Congress has required the FAA to come up with legislation that will allow commercial drones by 2015, lawmakers and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are voicing concerns over the use of drones in aerial surveillance.

To address these issues, Flirtey is currently collaborating with the The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, a non-profit research institute, to draft a set of guidelines for the use of commercial drones.

“We hope to use this guide as a way to work through safety, privacy and community concerns locally which will hopefully set a benchmark for the rest of the world as to how to interact with this new technology,” says Haider. The startup also advocates the establishment of a non-profit association that will allow UAV operators to share safety innovations in hardware, software or test data online.

Haider and Flirtey co-founder Matthew Sweeny say that several safeguards have been built into Flirtey’s UAVs, including “collision avoidance technology” to prevent them from crashing into trees, buildings or birds; a mechanism that forces drones to hover and then land slowly if it loses signal range or experiences technical failure; and the ability to override autonomous operation and allow a person to take control. Flirtey’s commercial drones don’t have cameras in order to prevent privacy intrusions.

“As with most major innovations that start with a military background, such as the Internet, SMS, GPS and satellites, when applied to a community problem they have a significant and positive impact on society. Our goal is to do this with UAVs. We don’t store any user data other than what is required to safely deliver the product,” says Haider.

Haider is hopeful that UAVs will close the gap between innovation in e-commerce and the logistics industry, which has used the same delivery methods for decades.

“Textbooks are an excellent way to test the market as they allow for varying weights,” he says. “With the concentration of students in universities in Australia, we will have proof of concept that shows if you can deliver a textbook, then things such as urgent medical deliveries, clothes, shoes, fast food and other e-commerce will be much more viable.”

Views: 1112

Comment by Arthur Benemann on October 14, 2013 at 9:06pm

This value is at a minimal dubious : "80 cents AUD per delivery" (they calculate this using only the electricity cost to charge the battery?)

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 14, 2013 at 10:03pm

The goal that larger scale industry is going for is a NATO standard platform I know of several systems that can, amongst those a powered parachute and of course the Kaman Kmax.

Comment by mP1 on October 14, 2013 at 10:44pm

How many people will order a book or two and then say the copter crashed and grab some parts when it lands ?

Comment by FlyingAnt on October 14, 2013 at 10:59pm

 for this to be a commercial activity they would need CASA approval, once approved there are strict regs to follow;

they cannot fly in urban areas nor within 30 horizontal meters of people, so they could throw a text book at you as long as you are not in an urban area

beside there is already a way to get textbooks delivered to your smart phone, its called the internet

@arthur, i agree 80c??  so all other costs aside from electricity to charge battery are zero??, distribution, labour, wear ??

no harm in trying, at the very least their website will capture some information form people who 'sign up'

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on October 15, 2013 at 12:45am

I think this idea has legs...

...except that wings would probably be preferable!

Comment by robincfey on October 15, 2013 at 3:12pm

i can see that gimmicky value of doing this but why are we still using text books? i can see the value of pizza delivered by multi copter but only as a gag , but books? really ? anything that can be sent wireless should be !! text books should be fully digital freely available information , this would cut down costs education not to mention the time spend searching for chapters , when a pc or tablet can do it in shorter times than it takes to open a book come on people !!! start making digital versions of all your text books and upload them for everyone to use for FREE

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on October 15, 2013 at 6:10pm

Go for it robincfey!  Start the ball rolling by writing and uploading some books for no pay!  I'm sure you'll be thrilled by the idea after you've finished the first book

Comment by robincfey on October 15, 2013 at 6:39pm

ha , nice stab but your missing the point , its so much easier to upload a digital book than waste energy and resources trying to deliver text books , what kind of operating range do you think this will achieve? 20km? and will i have to go sit in a park and wait for the book to come to me? isn't it easier to just get the text book from where im studying? i just keep seeing people trying to use multi copters to deliver big heavy objects when we have a perfectly good postal service , one day yes we will be seeing quads delivering Chinese food but until we address the simple fact that in order to lift a 1kg book you need a pretty hefty copter and then in turn to fly the distance even heavier batteries , until we have a better alternative to LIPOS lets just put a delivery system on the back burner and stick to photography and mapping , oh and ill leave the digitizing of books to google 

Comment by Not Sure on October 16, 2013 at 3:07pm

I'll help ya out here boys, cause pipe dreams can exist.

CASR101 - the document you need to read and love.  In it describes how you can't fly over a populous area, fly beyond line of sight, and fly in controlled airspace.  These can be explained to you at your local CASA office as to why you'll need something short of a miracle to get this from an idea to anything else.  Bare in mind all the other stuff you propose to do with putting lots of choppy things without cameras or situational awareness near people.

...just saying

Comment by Hai Tran on October 17, 2013 at 10:31am

A more efficient way of delivering a book huh?  Has anyone heard of eBooks?


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