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When will Drone Delivery Become a Reality

ECE & ChE Professor Vincent Harris explains what obstacles companies must address before they can make using drones to make deliveries a reality.


Source: News @ Northeastern

Imagine being able to order a product and have it show up at your doorstep less than 30 min­utes after you pur­chased it.

Amazon believes it will be able to ful­fill that expe­dited delivery vision through its Amazon Prime Air ser­vice, which would uti­lize drones as package-​​shipping agents.

The Seattle-​​based e-​​commerce giant released a video this week detailing the plans for Prime Air and the future fleet of drones that could travel up to 15 miles, climb as high as 400 feet, and use tech­nology to detect haz­ards in the air and on the ground.

Here, Vin­cent Harris, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor and William Lin­coln Smith Chair Pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Engi­neering, explains why there is a lot of work to be done in the tech­no­log­ical and public policy realms before Prime Air takes off.

On the tech­no­log­ical advances of the project

Harris: It appears to me that the Amazon drones have been designed with two vari­ables opti­mized: one is package weight and the other is time of flight. The GPS tech­nology and video feeds look very sophis­ti­cated as well.

factsOn Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion regulations

Harris: “The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion must take into account the bal­ance between U.S. com­pa­nies becoming more com­pet­i­tive on the world stage and intru­sions on the public’s pri­vacy and safety. The FAA is con­sid­ering a spe­cial­ized aspect of drone pro­duc­tion to be able to con­trol and mit­i­gate pos­sible threats.”

On other com­pa­nies using drones for com­mer­cial use

Harris: “The food ser­vice industry has the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of dis­tance and package weight to uti­lize drones. We will soon see Domino’s Pizza drone deliv­eries. Public health offi­cials are also using drones to track sharks and locate dis­tressed swim­mers in the ocean.”

On whether drones will take over the skies

Harris: “The FAA will move method­i­cally and in mea­sure (According to a report by Busi­ness Insider Intel­li­gence, reg­u­la­tions could come by 2017). How­ever, I antic­i­pate that there could be aerial path­ways iden­ti­fied for drones to operate in for delivery and trans­port that will not be overly intru­sive. In these instances drones can either use the same anti-​​collision tech­nolo­gies used in cars to keep a safe dis­tance from one another or form queues.”

Related Faculty: Vincent G. Harris

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering