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Drones Get Serious about Package Deliveries

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Drones Get Serious about Package Deliveries

Old 24th Apr 2019, 15:11
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Drones Get Serious about Package Deliveries

The wave of the future?

FAA approval means Wing can operate commercial drones in Virginia later this year

Thomson Reuters · Posted: Apr 24, 2019 9:10 AM ET | Last Updated: an hour ago
A Wing Hummingbird drone carries a package of ice cream and popsicles in August 2018 as it leaves its launch site during a delivery flight demonstration in Blacksburg, Va. Wing Aviation plans to start commercial package delivery in Blacksburg later this year after getting Federal Aviation Administration approval. (Michael Shroyer via Associated Press)
Alphabet Inc's Wing Aviation unit got the OK Tuesday to start delivering goods by drone in Virginia later this year, making the sister unit of search engine Google the first company to get U.S. air carrier certification, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

This means Wing can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes, which includes flights beyond visual line of sight and over people, the FAA and Wing said. Wing Aviation plans to start commercial package delivery in Blacksburg, Va., later this year.

Wing partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech as one of the participants in the Transportation Department's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.
Consumers can monitor and learn about Wing Aviation drones they may see or hear nearby, Wing says. (Michael Shroyer via Associated Press)
"This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our No. 1 priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.The certification is good for two years, the FAA said. One pilot can operate up to five drones at once and only during the day. Drones cannot carry hazardous materials or hover over people, the FAA said.

3,000 deliveries in Australia

The FAA said Wing demonstrated that its operations met the agency's safety requirements, based on extensive data and documentation, as well as thousands of safe flights conducted in Australia, where the company said its drones have flown more than 70,000 test flights and made more than 3,000 deliveries to customers.Wing plans to reach out to the local community before it begins a food delivery trial in order to gather feedback, the FAA said.

Wing has recently begun commercial air delivery service in the north of Canberra, Australia, and is also about to begin its first trial in Europe, delivering to homes in Helsinki, Finland.

Wing said its data shows a lower risk to pedestrians from drone deliveries than the same trip made by car.
A member of Project Wing loads the Wing Hummingbird drone with a package to deliver during a delivery flight demonstration in Blacksburg, Va., in August 2018. The company said its drones have flown more than 70,000 test flights and made more than 3,000 deliveries to customers in Australia. (Michael Shroyer via Associated Press)
In May 2018, Chao announced approval for 10 projects to help assess how to regulate drones and integrate them safely into U.S. air space. The United States has lagged other countries in experimentation with drones, something the program hopes to correct.In January, the FAA proposed rules that would allow drones to operate over populated areas and end a requirement for special permits for night use. The FAA is also considering moving ahead with additional rules in response to public safety and national security concerns as it works to integrate drones with airplane traffic.

Wing is touting many benefits from deliveries by electric drones. It says medicine and food can be delivered faster, that drones will be especially helpful to consumers who need help getting around, and that they can reduce traffic and emissions.Drone usage in the U.S. has grown rapidly in some industries such as utilities, pipelines and agriculture. But drones have faced more obstacles in delivering retail packages and food because of federal regulations that bar most flights over crowds of people and beyond sight of the operator without a waiver from the FAA.

The U.S. federal government recently estimated that about 110,000 commercial drones were operating in the U.S., and that number is expected to zoom to about 450,000 in 2022.

Amazon is working on drone delivery, a topic on which chief executive officer Jeff Bezos is keen. Delivery companies including UPS and DHL have also conducted tests.
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Old 25th Apr 2019, 01:09
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drone carries a package of ice cream and popsicles
Get real.
I can see a need for medicine and the like in remote areas, i.e. PNG, but ice cream and popsicles??????????

I wonder how many mid-air collisions and noise complaints will be accepted per x flights.
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Old 25th Apr 2019, 06:37
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How do these drones ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft that are not equipped with electronic conspicuity devices? I’m thinking gliders and some planes for starters although line of sight drones, kites etc may also be an issue. Or can they only operate in controlled airspace? If so that will surely limit their delivery areas - and keep the controllers very busy.
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Old 25th Apr 2019, 11:44
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Originally Posted by Andrewgr2 View Post
How do these drones ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft that are not equipped with electronic conspicuity devices? I’m thinking gliders and some planes for starters although line of sight drones, kites etc may also be an issue. Or can they only operate in controlled airspace? If so that will surely limit their delivery areas - and keep the controllers very busy.
The FAA will not be controlling these drones which is why they are limited to below 'navigable airspace' and outside controlled airspace so not adding workload to controllers.

Yes there are lots of challenges:
* They cannot 'detect and avoid' non-cooperative aircraft and that includes many manned aircraft flying VFR and allowed to operate below 400ft such as hang-gliders, powered parachutes and helicopters.
* More importantly, operations in a non-urban setting will not be profitable, operations in urban areas will be more problematic particularly delivering to customers without an open easy to reach 'backyard'.
* The times people want to have deliveries tend to be at night and in poor weather - the times when these drones will not be able to operate.

But google beancounters have lots of spare cash and think that these problems will disappear all they need do is throw money.

Last edited by Ian W; 25th Apr 2019 at 11:46. Reason: Added below navigable airspace
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Old 25th Apr 2019, 12:14
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I think the noise will be a problem for many people. And when you overfly the neighbour's baby sleeping in the garden just because you ordered another pizza or similar. For a short time it will be some novelty but then people will not like it as it invades their private spaces.

Last edited by Less Hair; 25th Apr 2019 at 13:08.
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Old 25th Apr 2019, 12:56
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Plenty of noise complaints from the trials in Canberra. High pitch whine annoys householders near flight paths. Local government is keen to see the trial go ahead so complaints get little traction. I heard that there had been no CASA approval initially. I don't know if that is still the case.
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Old 25th Apr 2019, 13:08
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Last thing I heard Wing have some AOC in Australia as well.
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 04:30
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Originally Posted by Andrewgr2 View Post
How do these drones ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft that are not equipped with electronic conspicuity devices? I’m thinking gliders and some planes for starters although line of sight drones, kites etc may also be an issue. Or can they only operate in controlled airspace? If so that will surely limit their delivery areas - and keep the controllers very busy.
Search for "long-range-bvlos-uav" in Flarm AG web pages. Sorry, but can't post the whole URL because too few postings yet...

"Nice examples of two recent long-range UAV flights across Switzerland using FLARM as the only onboard technology to stay clear of other traffic.

The two independent project – one form ETH Zurich, one from a Locarno-based company – both target a fully autonomous beyond-line-of-sight fixed-wing drone flight in uncontrolled airspace using our Flarm UAV design to detect and avoid manned traffic, to be detectable by manned traffic and to be tracked by professional ground tracking services. FLARM was the only onboard traffic technology, neither ADS-B nor transponders were used."

Flarm is widely used in gliders, copters etc. Also ATC in many places "unofficially" monitors Flarm traffic using the OGN network.

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Old 26th Apr 2019, 06:53
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Ventti How can FLARM, with or without OGN, ‘see’ anything that isn’t itself equipped with some sort of electronic conspicuity device? In the UK at least there is no requirement to carry anything in Class G and many planes, gliders, para gliders, kites and even large model aircraft would be ‘unseen’ hazards. Although there isn’t too much manned flight below 500’ where I think the drones will typically operate aircraft take off and land at ‘strips’ which may not be marked on charts, gliders land in fields and ridge soar below ridge top height etc etc.
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 08:41
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I can imagine that applications for shotgun licences might increase in certain areas.....
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 08:46
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Originally Posted by Ventti View Post
Search for "long-range-bvlos-uav" in Flarm AG web pages. Sorry, but can't post the whole URL because too few postings yet...

"Nice examples of two recent long-range UAV flights across Switzerland using FLARM as the only onboard technology to stay clear of other traffic.

The two independent project – one form ETH Zurich, one from a Locarno-based company – both target a fully autonomous beyond-line-of-sight fixed-wing drone flight in uncontrolled airspace using our Flarm UAV design to detect and avoid manned traffic, to be detectable by manned traffic and to be tracked by professional ground tracking services. FLARM was the only onboard traffic technology, neither ADS-B nor transponders were used."

Flarm is widely used in gliders, copters etc. Also ATC in many places "unofficially" monitors Flarm traffic using the OGN network.
I think this is the link you wish to post:

https://flarm.com/long-range-bvlos-uav/
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 11:51
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Andrewgr2: The UAV needs to have a Flarm device which sends its position and receives similar position messages from any Flarm equipped around. This is how it can display the possible threats to you. So highly recommend you install one, if flying in airspace with these creatures, although it is not required in anywhere. Even better, make it a PowerFlarm and you also get ADSB In and see more targets.

Surely without anything installed, the UAV cannot been seen with anything else than a primary radar (if large enough) or an eye (if close enough). I thought that was self-evident.
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 12:01
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One thing I do remember from my Royal Air Force apprenticeship. From day one we were taught "Never stand or walk underneath a suspended load".
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 12:17
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Originally Posted by Andrewgr2 View Post
Ventti How can FLARM, with or without OGN, ‘see’ anything that isn’t itself equipped with some sort of electronic conspicuity device? In the UK at least there is no requirement to carry anything in Class G and many planes, gliders, para gliders, kites and even large model aircraft would be ‘unseen’ hazards. Although there isn’t too much manned flight below 500’ where I think the drones will typically operate aircraft take off and land at ‘strips’ which may not be marked on charts, gliders land in fields and ridge soar below ridge top height etc etc.
I don't have specifics about this drone, but 77GHz radar units (used in cars) weigh in at a few ounces and can be configured for a range of over 100 meters. They could certainly detect small planes and would probably have little trouble with other drones as well. Kites and balloons at a distance might be a challenge - but they are slow moving.
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 14:05
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100 meters
Avoidance time at 100 meters with two aircraft with a closing speed 200kms is less than 2 sec.
So in that 2sec, onboard systems have to identify the threat, talk to the threat, determine and agree on a course of avoidance and carryout the avoidance climb, descent or turn.
I guess the software can do that in milliseconds but would the airframe be strong enough to survive the avoidance action, especially a passenger carrying airframe?
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 15:03
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
I can imagine that applications for shotgun licences might increase in certain areas.....
Catapult would be my weapon of choice.
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 15:06
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Originally Posted by Andrewgr2 View Post
Ventti How can FLARM, with or without OGN, ‘see’ anything that isn’t itself equipped with some sort of electronic conspicuity device? In the UK at least there is no requirement to carry anything in Class G and many planes, gliders, para gliders, kites and even large model aircraft would be ‘unseen’ hazards. Although there isn’t too much manned flight below 500’ where I think the drones will typically operate aircraft take off and land at ‘strips’ which may not be marked on charts, gliders land in fields and ridge soar below ridge top height etc etc.
All the current UAS aka Drone systems rely on the 'small aircraft big sky' concept. So I have actually listened to discussions on the probability of another aircraft there is so small it can be discounted as 'highly improbable' so no need to worry about the hang-gliders, powered parachutes, helicopters etc etc that are legally flying in Class G (VFR from the surface to base of the next airspace class). These 'got away with it that time' BVLOS flights will continue until they don't. This will bring about a 'Grand Canyon Moment' ( 1956 Mid Air Grand Canyon ) and then serious safety discussions will need to be made. This may well result in all general aviation / sport aviation aircraft having to equip to fly in Class G, so that a drone company can carry on delivering popsicles and pizzas.

Last edited by Ian W; 26th Apr 2019 at 15:08. Reason: grammar
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Old 26th Apr 2019, 22:04
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Does anyone see a conflict between the apparent regulatory approach to drone delivery of packages and the restraints imposed on helicopter external load operations in Part 133?
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