Amazon has been making a lot of investments recently to make the logistics of package delivery more efficient and more convenient for consumers. You can now have a package delivered directly inside your home or the trunk of your car, and they’ve also been crowdsourcing last mile delivery since 2015. But we have developed a system that I think addresses a still unmet need— delivering a package directly to your hands, whenever you want it, wherever you are, not constrained by physical addresses or roads. It’s a drone-based delivery system we call DelivAir:
How it Works
Like other drone delivery solutions, ours isn’t constrained by roads, and it’s ideal for delivering small things quickly. The insight we had that makes DelivAir unique is that it’s much more convenient to have those things delivered directly to the hands of the recipient rather than to an address. Our delivery drone flies to your general location using GPS, then uses its smart vision system to precisely locate and authenticate you. It then uses a stabilizing winch to lower your package directly into your hands. What could be more convenient than that?!
Our delivery drone flies to your general location using GPS, then uses its smart vision system to precisely locate and authenticate you.
How it Could Be Used
While there are still regulatory hurdles, the US is beginning to assess how to regulate drones and integrate them safely into U.S. airspace. We developed the fully functional DelivAir prototype to show what is possible once the regulatory landscape allows. Because the system isn’t restricted to roads and zip codes, it enables many fun possibilities, like having lunch delivered to you on the ski slopes. It could also revolutionize gift giving, since an address isn’t required. I could send an old friend a birthday gift as easily as sending a text, without knowing his current address or whether or not he’s home. And think about the impact to shopping for clothing online! You could order two different shoe sizes and try them on while the drone waits to see which size fits.
Because the system isn’t restricted to roads and zip codes, it enables many fun possibilities…
Some of the more compelling use cases are for safety critical situations, like bringing a first aid kit to a remote hiker, an inner tube to a stranded cyclist, or an EpiPen to a person in need. DelivAir is also great for situations that require authenticating the recipient prior to delivering a package. It pairs the phone’s built-in authentication system with a coded pattern from the flash LED to uniquely and securely identify the recipient; making it useful for things like delivering sensitive documents, medication (Amazon is taking on that space as well), or maybe even alcohol that requires age verification.
We’ve also considered functions beyond package delivery, adapting our drone to take water samples autonomously for research and environmental monitoring applications.
It’s no doubt a solution like this will be an important component of future e-commerce, and could change the last mile delivery experience for businesses and consumers. As an engineering consultancy, we have no plans to commercialize DelivAir ourselves, but we are experts at solving novel technical challenges and bringing innovative technologies from concept to production. What would you have delivered with the DelivAir system? Please drop us a line if you want to talk about it!