Drones that deliver Amazon packages: a video spreads on the internet that one may hold initially for a parody. But the Americans are not the only ones who are planning such an air delivery service.The Australian bookseller Zookal wants to deliver books by mini helicopters in the coming year with the startup Flirtey in Sydney. The US startup Matternet working for several years on a drone network for developing countries, to transport medicines to inaccessible villages. Just now a million-dollar contest starts with unmanned flight transporters in Kenya.

The goal of the flying donkey challenge: Teams should build drones carrying up to 60 kg packages. Thus, even farmers are to fly their crops to markets in the region. The research departments of transportation companies such as DHL carefully observe the technical development.

Is it allowed at all for drones to fly?

“From today’s perspective, Amazon’s project is completely inconceivable”, says one expert. Drones may be controlled currently only manually and must always reside within sight of the pilot. “Supposedly the Amazon drones should be used in the urban areas. And here are other flying objects such as rescue or police helicopters on the way”. As long the drones are unableto adapt automatically to the rules of air traffic, they should not fly long distances.

Drones as postman: is this technically feasible?

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The technology is already far enough for three reasons, to avoid collisions in the urban sky. First even toy drones such as the AR equipped drone 2.0 of the French provider Parrot is already equipped with GPS sensors that can always accurately determine the position of the aircraft bya few centimetres. Delivery services could determine so accurate flight corridors, along roads, through which the drones would move, without having to leave it. Secondly, computer chips and image processing are developed so far that drones can process objects flying, even things such as a bird. Thirdly, there are drones already that are able to scan their surroundings with radar sensors and cameras to detect obstacles and dodge them instantly.

How fast and far can drones fly?

Within 30 minutes, Amazon wants to extradite packages via drone. Technically, this should be possible, because commercial Octocopter can fly already 80 kilometers per hour. On top of that the plane can take the direct route – and are far superior to vans, which stop at every red light, often in a traffic jam and navigate through one-way streets in a roundabout way to the target.

Drawback however is the range: Amazon wants to transport up to 16 kilometers and up to 2.3 kilograms heavy packages. With multiple batteries, this may be possible; other routes can be traveled only by gasoline-powered drones. If Amazon wants to supply not only households in the vicinity of its shipping centers, they would have to set up to loading stations where drones either replace the battery or pass their cargo to drones with a fresh battery.

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