Drones: Is there anything they can’t deliver?

It may be little more than 100 years ago that the Wright brothers took to the skies as they pioneered the world’s first aeroplane, but now the race is on to conquer the drone market.

In recent months it’s been claimed that pizzas, shopping, government documents and practically anything else you can think of will be delivered by drones. We soon won’t be able to move for them.

Facebook is the most recently reported company seemingly entering the drone market, as its rumoured purchase of manufacturer Titan Aerospace looks more realistic.

There’s no doubting the potential that drones could offer for delivery services and creative marketing departments in the future, but at present there are a lot of crucial problems that need to be solved before they can take off commercially.

Everything from ensuring the product is delivered to the right person, avoiding interception en-route and navigating adverse weather conditions are some of the hurdles that need to be climbed before drone delivery is a realistic possibility.

We’ve looked at some of the most ‘creative’ claims, or stunts, when it comes to companies utilising drones.

Beer

Ice fishers in Minnesota, US, were left disappointed when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded a local brewery’s beer delivering drone as it was outside the rules. Flying drones above 400 feet is not permitted in the country and commercial organisations are not allowed to use them either. The thirsty fishermen will have to return to shore for ice cold beers until the FAA announces legislation in 2015.

Pizza

The ‘DomiCopter’, by pizza giants Domino’s, flies over UK fields and rivers directed by a member of staff to deliver not one but two pizzas to a customer (or a lucky passerby) who happens to be outside waiting for the drone to arrive.

Official documents

In a move that can’t go wrong at all, the United Arab Emirates is set to launch a drone service that delivers government documents, packages and licences to officials. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be equipped with fingerprint and eye-recognition technology to try and prevent theft. The scheme is set to undergo a six month trial period in Dubai and then roll out to other parts of the country if the nation’s secrets haven’t been disclosed.

Parcels

The most high profile of the drone testing/stunts was by online shopping company Amazon who ambitiously stated customers could receive products 30 minutes after ordering them. Unlike the Minnesota brewery the company tested its drones outside of the US to get around the laws.

Finding bigfoot

It technically isn’t a company trying to make money from drones, but one ambitious group, The Falcon Project, are trying to launch a quiet, remote-controlled airship to find the large ape which has reportedly been spotted in the US. It sees the drone approach as being one of the best ways to hunt for the legendary creature over large areas.

credit-falconproject

Netflix

In many ways the video streaming company have hit the nail on the head when it comes to using drones. In their parody advert, which mocks many of the above, the company say that its ‘Drone-to-home’ project will deliver your disc to you within seconds of it being ordered.


Update

– It might not be all bad for the thirsty ice fishers as a judge in the US has ruled that commercially using drones is now legal. The ruling has effectively made the FAA’s current ban on drone use for commercial purposes not stand any longer. But if the FAA decides to appeal then the case could go to US Court of Appeals in Washington.



Image of ‘bigfoot’ drone courtesy of The Falcon Project.


On-the-go solar charging is coming to a street near you

It happens to all of us: you’re out and about and want to make a call when you realise that your phone is out of battery. Soon, however, this won’t be a problem – before long you could use Street Charge, a solar charging station designed to give you a burst of power while you’re out and about.

Street Charge is designed to give power to any electrical product with a USB connection, including tablets, cameras and mp3 players.

Each station features three micro USB connectors, which are commonly used in mobile phones and cameras, and three female USB connectors, which allow users to connect their own charging cables to the unit.

Street Charge solar charging

Launched in London, UK, yesterday by European suppliers Environmental Street Furniture, Street Charge features three 20 watt solar panels that power up an internal battery, meaning it can be used both during the day and at night.

It also means that Street Charge will work regardless of the weather – a vital feature in rainy countries such as the UK.

The charging station can be installed anywhere outside, and is particularly suited to green spaces, bus and rail stations and universities.

Street Charge also proved its value for public events at San Diego Comic-Con in July. Charging units set up for the event were very positively received by attendees and journalists alike, so we could see the station become a stable of festivals and large events around the world.

Street Charge solar charging

Street Charge was originally launched in the US back in June 2013. The first units were located in New York City, and there are now 25 across all five boroughs.

In the eight months Street Charge has been available for, the unit has spread across the US. There are now over 100 charging stations across several states, including Texas, Florida and California.

However the UK launch is one of the first times Street Charge has made it worldwide, with only a handful of places having already had units installed. The only places with Street Charge already in place are Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Dubai; Lima, Peru and Sydney, Australia

Street Charge might be effective, but as something located in public spaces it has to be highly robust to avoid damage from vandalism. The cords are covered with reinforced, industrial-grade material to make then highly resistant to abuse, and the tips are nickel and gold plated for extra durability.

Even if a cable were to be irreparably damaged, it is designed to be easily replaced, giving the station the best chance of surviving anything the public can throw at it.

All of this may be unnecessary, however. Environmental Street Furniture managing director Alan Lowry said that the company had any serious issues with sabotage or vandalism. “We thought that would be an issue in New York, but we didn’t see it,” he said.


Images courtesy of Street Charge.