From the delivery of doughnuts to the delivery of life-saving anti-virus serum, UAV transportation has become a new field of concern for many people in a few years. Although the share of UAV transportation in the whole transportation field is still very small, this new method will soon overturn the future development of express industry.
According to the latest Gartner survey report, with the increasing number of commercial and personal UAVs, the global UAV industry revenue growth is expected to reach 34% in 2017, more than $6 billion. In 2017, the global production of UAVs was 3 million, an increase of 39% compared with the same period in 2016.
"The business and personal UAV markets are increasingly overlapping, and more entry-level UAVs are beginning to be used in business." Gerald van Hoy, senior research analyst at Gartner, said. "Personal UAV manufacturers are actively seeking their own positioning in the business field, and with the progress of technology, the boundaries between the two fields have become increasingly blurred. Personal Drones will be used in many special areas, such as surveillance, 3D graphics and modeling. "
In fact, the application fields of commercial and consumer UAVs often overlap, which means that the two types of products face the same problems and how to deliver them is easy to solve, but for UAV R & D engineers, the most important factor has become the main challenge.
So in order to solve the problem of UAV transportation, we have collected some new technologies and patents to see what methods the UAV industry will use to solve the current delivery problem.
From A to B
At present, the basic technology of UAV delivery has made great progress, but it is not fully prepared. Amazon, flirtey and zipline are all in a leading position, and each company provides different solutions to solve different logistics problems.
Last year, technology giant Amazon applied for a patent to distribute and transport drones in the air. Amazon plans to build an "air distribution center" similar to Zeppelin airship, in order to achieve large-scale, long-distance transportation of UAV delivery function.
The "air distribution center" can carry a large number of goods and deliver them to users according to the order information. In addition, the "air distribution center" can also be equipped with a UAV with a temperature control system. Once the existence of the temperature control system is sensed, the distribution center will quickly and safely deliver the food to the buyer.
This year, Amazon has pushed the range of drone delivery even further. For example, a recent patent, Amazon hopes to build a logistics center dedicated to drones. Compared with the traditional logistics center that needs a large area of space, the UAV logistics center can be built vertically, that is to say, even in densely populated areas such as the city center, the UAV logistics center can still be built, which solves the problem of short duration and long delivery time of UAV.
Second, since it can be put in the center of the city, we should consider noise and safety. In order to solve the problem of noise in traditional UAV, Amazon learned the shape of plant leaves and reduced the noise by adding leaves to the UAV rotor.
And the most important security issue, Amazon put forward a UAV system with multiple rotors and engines at the end of the patent, that is, adding redundant power to the UAV, which can keep the UAV from falling down even if one system fails.
The last Amazon patent is about the safety of drones. Amazon has a parachute for the UAV, a foldable design, a built-in wire network, and a detachable shell, shock absorber and sensor to track the package at any time. The parachute system can adapt to different sizes of packages. If the package is too heavy, multiple parachutes can be used for buffering.
Amazon is not the only technology giant to patent drones. IBM also recently passed a patent for package conversion during UAV flight. By using their supply chain, the school can deliver packages more accurately to users by using UAV to deliver services more accurately.
If these technologies are realized one by one in the future, they can help us overcome the problems brought by the current UAV transportation. At that time, the challenges faced by the whole UAV industry were not only these technical problems.
Air traffic control and flight rights
Air traffic control is a combination of technology and supervision. If UAVs want to play their full potential, they need a complex and comprehensive traffic management system to prevent each other from colliding. After all, UAVs inevitably share the same sky with technology, military aircraft and other aircraft, and compared with the package delivery problem of the last kilometer, air safety faces greater regulatory challenges.
In contrast to today's air traffic management, some viewpoints hold that in the future, air traffic control will be completed completely in the form of automation, and a large number of aircrafts need to be tracked automatically by UAVs. NASA is currently working with professional UAV manufacturers to develop the system, which is expected to be initially completed by 2025. Although good progress has been made, it will take several years to study and implement such a program.
In addition, the weather also has a great challenge to the traffic management of UAV. In a field test conducted by NASA and its partners, when the altitude of the UAV is more than 100 feet, after leaving the designated flight area, the weather factor becomes more challenging. Because UAVs eventually land on the ground, they are more vulnerable to weather changes.
Tracking and managing large UAV formations is also facing great challenges. It is reported that alphabet is currently developing its own traffic management system. The system demonstrates how operators can safely control multiple UAVs in the same air area without using manual management. Other planned functions include real-time route planning, weather notification and FAA no fly zone warning.
At the same time, UAV monitoring and UAV management are also crucial. In order to implement traffic regulations, airport and air traffic controllers need to detect whether there is UAV flight in their responsibility area in real time. FAA conducted a similar test at DFW Airport to prevent "rogue drones" from violating air control regulations and deliberately affecting the operation of the airport.
Airmap, based in Santa Monica, Calif., has begun to address traffic safety and management issues. The company provides an air management platform for UAVs and supports more than 100000 flights per day. In the process of continuous development, the system also allows the UAV operator to draw flight path, inform the airport of relevant area by digital means, and check the flight status of manned and unmanned UAV in real time to avoid temporary and permanent restrictions on flight.
Trust: from regulation to consumer
The last obstacle the UAV industry has to overcome is trust. First, winning regulators' trust requires a clear commitment to public security. This means more data, more third-party verification and more technical support. More research is needed across the industry in order for regulators to gain more trust.
Of course, winning consumers' trust is also challenging. As with any new technology, large-scale UAV operation is still a high threshold for consumers. If industry leaders are not 100% sure about the role of drones in social development, ordinary consumers will continue to be skeptical of this new technology.
To win the trust of consumers, it takes time and effort, and there are more products to win the trust of the public. Now, consumer drones have gained a lot of attention. At the same time, regulatory approval and a large number of data research also help consumers trust the technology.
The future of UAV transportation
In the next few years, the UAV industry really needs to overcome a lot of new obstacles, but several major technology companies are already on the way. Diversification is the first step to solve the problem of UAV transportation. Once we have established the air management system and reached the availability threshold through technology, we will open a new door.
With the development of an industry, there must be more demands from customers, and the potential of UAV transportation is now obvious, and people are ready to meet the changes of new technology to life.