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cargo drones in the lower airspace

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cargo drones in the lower airspace

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Old 4th Nov 2018, 19:02
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cargo drones in the lower airspace

I spent time last week at a meeting discussing the use of drones to deliver cargo in very specific circumstances as a very specific piece of very specific supply chains. It made me rethink the 'remove the pilot from the flight deck to remove pilot error' argument which is occasionally raised here to be ritually shot-down.

I have to say I was really impressed by the progress. I saw demos of (ADSB-equipped) drones flying purely autonomously, right under the approach path of a small regional airport, and delivering up to 5Kg over ranges of 50Km or so. They were discussing the idea of exploiting the lower airspace (<500' AGL) for high value and urgent items - critical spare parts, critical medicines etc. My very strong suspicion is that this will become established over the next 5 years and in the next 10 years, a lower airspace full of autonomous drones zipping around will be part of the aviation world.

I think that is a world away from pilotless long range passenger aircraft, but the gap is closing in cargo. I saw a description of an autonomous drone with a 1,800Kg load and a range of 1,000s of Km (FLYOX singularAircraft), that could replace a Twin Otter or a Caravan.
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 19:28
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I agree that this is on the horizon but donít letís conflate it with the silly ďremove the pilot remove pilot error ď nonsense I completed a PFCO (commercial drone op course) recently. Not one of the experienced RPAS pilots would consider getting on board an unmanned airliner
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 19:46
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Originally Posted by ShotOne View Post
.... don’t let’s conflate it with the silly “remove the pilot remove pilot error “ nonsense

That was (part of) my point. This is pilotless aircraft coming from another end of the aviation spectrum and I think the gap will slowly reduce in cargo (these are all fixed wing vehicles - don't think quadcopter, mostly with VTOL capability).
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 19:47
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Which protection against paragliding airmiss?

Last edited by roulishollandais; 4th Nov 2018 at 19:50. Reason: Two messages
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 19:51
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Originally Posted by roulishollandais View Post
Which protection against paragliding airmiss?
Pre-defined flight corridors and drop points. Don't think Amazon delivering to any house, think delivering to remote hubs, eg hospitals, clinics, multipurpose redistribution centres.
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 20:10
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It'll be "fine"... until one hits a bird (or a non-ADS-B drone piloted by some idiot) or has some sort of failure and it then dumps a 5kg package onto someone's car/house/head/child etc... then we'll get endless hours of "news" reports with headlines like "killer drones" or "death from above" and the inevitable outrage on social media.

On the plus side... it'll give all the Chemtrail/"Govt is spying on me" conspiracy theorists a new target
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 20:11
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Originally Posted by double_barrel View Post
delivering up to 5Kg over ranges of 50Km or so.
Until the first one suffers a battery overrun or power failure and kills the poor soul whose head it lands on.
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 21:04
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What will stop someone with a shotgun / big net bringing the drone down and stealing the goods?

i can see the potential uses for this in disaster relief or conflict areas but to deliver amazon parcels? Nope no need for it, the noise, the potential dangers and the question of who owns the lower airspace over ones property will be huge hurdles to overcome.
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 21:23
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Amazon versus the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Corporate colonisation versus the human spirit.
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Old 4th Nov 2018, 22:00
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CORUS (a SESAR JU key project) don't forsee this until implementation phase U4. There have been many demos and studies on all this from the BAe Jetstream 41 to a Northrop-Grumman drone that did a transatlantic flight in the last few months. Segregated demos are all well and fine, but everyone in the industry knows that this will take at least 10 years before it's even at the Standard Scenario stage (which JARUS and EASA haven't even defined yet).
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 05:06
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I have no dog in this fight, and of course it is complex But as I stressed in the OP, I am convinced that initially for very particular circumstances this will become a standard method of delivery. And the reason its posted here and not JB for general discussion about drones, is that I imagine that they will become part of your world sooner than you think. I have already seen them interacting with ATC and manned aircraft (and autonomously with each other) and the political will seems to be there to make this happen. Currently the major limitation is not technical but regulatory, and even there it's around standards and conventions rather than fundamental acceptance.

Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
Until the first one suffers a battery overrun or power failure and kills the poor soul whose head it lands on.
Of course fails and accidents will happen. Their mission fail rate is currently a lot higher than for manned aircraft, although their response time and weather independence is much better. They all have pretty sophisticated failsafes - mostly with a parachute in the event of a major systems failure. Of course they will never be risk free, but I suspect that a mix of engineering (they are being designed and built by the same people that design and build manned aircraft and spacecraft), regulation and tight flight corridors will make them very low risk compared to other means of delivering. And certainly way safer than truck or motor bike.

Originally Posted by Icanseeclearly View Post
What will stop someone with a shotgun / big net bringing the drone down and stealing the goods?

i can see the potential uses for this in disaster relief or conflict areas but to deliver amazon parcels? Nope no need for it, the noise, the potential dangers and the question of who owns the lower airspace over ones property will be huge hurdles to overcome.
I think you have the wrong mental picture. These things weigh >10Kg and travel at >100kn. Except in landing or take-off hover, they will not be easy to stop without military grade hardware. And they won't be buzzing around randomly over your house they will fly high, silent and fast in corridors.


Originally Posted by VolLibre View Post
Amazon versus the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Corporate colonisation versus the human spirit.
That is exactly why I love the concept. This is exactly the opposite of Corporate colonisation versus the human spirit. This is not being led by Amazon, but by tiny groups organizing around particular human needs.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 07:52
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Originally Posted by double_barrel View Post
These things weigh >10Kg and travel at >100kn. Except in landing or take-off hover, they will not be easy to stop without military grade hardware.
Than I stand corrected - I revise my prophecy of doom by an order of magnitude.

In the wrong direction.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 10:50
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ďWhat will stop someone with a shotgun..(etc)Ē. Er, the same laws and police that stop someone shooting your postie/delivery man and stealing stuff from them!
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 11:24
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Fact is that UAVs are going to play a significant role in global aviation in the future, like them, hate them or anything in between. - they are hear to stay with their applications expected to grow expediently over the next decade. Forgot the pilotless pax aircraft, thatís a totally different concept.

As far as shooting them down and stealing the payload, whilst thatís plausible and possible, stop dreaming people, itís no different from using a mail delivery van, UAVs will be just another method to transport cargo. Donít see to many delivery vans getting held up or shot at.

DJI have just released the Mavic 2 Enterprise which is ADS-B in equiped, pretty impressive for a sub 2kg drone.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 12:38
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Originally Posted by Duck Pilot View Post
... itís no different from using a mail delivery van ...
Yes, it's different. A mail delivery van may contain anything, mostly relatively low-value stuff that isn't worth stealing, unless you have inside information about a specific shipment in a specific van. But a cargo drone will be very likely to be carrying "high value and urgent items", as the OP said.
Police? No problem. Down the thing in an area where you can be gone long before the cops arrive.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 14:20
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I think the problem of people bringing them down to steal the goods will already have been solved by car manufacturers who will have to figure out how to stop people from stopping autonomous cars and vans to rob them.

Not sure what those solutions yet are but the drone makers can probably adapt them.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 16:53
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The thing is the postman has permission to come on my property to deliver the mail. Stopping a mail van involves the problem of the driver. A drone buzzing around with potentially a valuable payload in it, no human to worry about.. easy prey with little consequences if it goes wrong. it doesn’t matter if it’s flying at 100 kts, 1 shotgun pellet into one of the blades spinning at very high RPM would be enough to bring it down.

like I said above drones have their place without a shadow of a doubt but not convinced they are necessary for delivering packages to houses.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 17:16
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Originally Posted by Icanseeclearly View Post


like I said above drones have their place without a shadow of a doubt but not convinced they are necessary for delivering packages to houses.
Quite. That is not currently likely, but there are ongoing efforts to use them for distribution to hard to get to places.

You would need to be a good shot to get a drone at 400' AGL doing 100kn plus. And you would have no way to know what the cargo was as you exposed yourself to prosecution by trying. And urgent and valuable cargo is not often easily convertible to cash! What will you do with 2 units of O neg blood or a drive belt for an infusion pump?
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 17:30
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The robbery theory is irrelevant.
In the end it will come down to two factors, regulation and money.
Current regulation is nowhere near suitable and any changes will take years rather than months.
Money is the big hurdle, drone delivery will be more expensive than a man with a van so the customer will have to pay a premium for fast delivery. How many customers will be prepared to pay the (as yet unknown) premium and more importantly is the market big enough to justify the investment in the required infrastructure. The corporate bean counters will decide.
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Old 5th Nov 2018, 18:12
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I can't remember now where I saw it, but recently there was a video piece about them experimenting with using a drone to deliver medicine in some under developed country. Clinic was on the far side of a body of water - normally one would have to drive 6 hours to go around the water, but the drone could fly across in an hour or less.
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