The concept is part of Amazon's goal to develop a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that can get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. Issued earlier this week, the patent may help Amazon grapple with how flying robots might interact with human bystanders and customers waiting on their doorsteps.
Depending on a person's gestures — a welcoming thumbs up, shouting or frantic arm waving — the drone can adjust its behavior, according to the patent. The machine could release the package it's carrying, alter its flight path to avoid crashing, ask humans a question or abort the delivery, the patent says.
According to an experiment conducted by Constantine Samaras and Joshuah Stolaroff, on average in the U.S., truck delivery of a package results in about 1 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. In California, drone delivery of a small package would result in about 0.42 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a savings of 54 percent from the 0.92 kg of greenhouse gases associated with a package delivered by truck in that state.
Not only is drone delivery environmentally more safer than regular means of transportation by trucks, it is also more faster and reliable as supported by DHL’s new parcelcopter.
The parcelcopter can fly at least 5 miles, at an altitude of over 1,600 feet, carrying 4.4 pounds of cargo at a speed of over 40 mph. It was tested in the Bavarian mountains, and according to DHL, it flew in 8 minutes a trip that takes cars half an hour. DHL was able to successfully drone 130 deliveries to special, DHL-made “skyports.”
Even as drone technology improves through the upcoming years, the challenge of dropping off a product “safety” still continues to linger. Due to safety concerns and possible factors such as high winds and rain, the challenge of landing a package safely to the customer’s front door seems to expand and worsen.
Some Companies, such as Amazon, have decided to address this issue by creating special “landing zones”. Amazon has filed a patent to use street lamps for drone delivery stations, while DHL’s Parcelcopter will drop packages at a “smart locker” and send recipients a code to unlock it. Such smart lockers mean DHL’s drones won’t offer service to your door, but they could be built into the top of apartment buildings one day – or even use your smart car for delivery.
The second big challenge is regulation, and as ever the law trails innovation. For now, drone deliveries are still facing regulatory hurdles in the United States and elsewhere, but it seems that business, regulators and environmental watchdogs may be able to get behind the notion of "starting small" with the roll out of this long-awaited sci-fi convenience.