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The trouble with drones

By Dan Wilson July 13, 2017 - 9:56 pm

We all know that Amazon, and doubtless other ecommerce delivery firms, are very interested in drones. It will seemingly be the fulfilment mode of the future. Amazon isn’t just looking at the individual drones but also investigating the full drone infrastructure that would be needed to service them.

It could be flying drone hubs or beehive like restocking units: Amazon is exploring it all. But probably the most challenging aspect of drone delivery is related to how it will relate to existing aircraft and aeroplane routes. Near miss situations between aircrafts seems quite commonplace as it stands already. But when you put the possibility of swarms of delivery drones into the mix, then it seems there really is an aerospace challenge.

As it stands under UK law, a drone operator has to be in sight of their drone. Obviously, for delivery options to be more extensive and profitable, that restriction will have to be loosened. But recent reports from areas near airports suggests that even that will present challenges.

A single rogue drone in recent weeks has caused problems at UK’s Gatwick airport. A drone flying close by led to the closure of the runway and forced five flights to be diverted. An airport spokesperson said the runway had been closed for twice after the drone was spotted.

Four Easyjet flights were diverted. One British Airways jet ended up landing at Bournemouth. Other planes were held in a holding pattern. Gatwick said: “Runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 18:10 BST and 18:19, and again from 18:36 to 18:41, resulting in a small number of go-arounds and diverts.”

Whenever I think of drone delivery, Arthur C. Clarke’s third law springs to mind: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Drones seemed like a ludicrous idea not two years ago and had all the hallmarks of a decent PR campaign. Now they seem possible but tricky.

  • JD
    1 week ago

    Is Amazon going to fit a secure drone landing pad to my first floor flat ‘all in’ the cost of Prime? No thought not.

    You might be able to demonstrate the process in the paddocks of rural Cambridgeshire but that to most of us is in another world.

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