America is now one step closer to becoming a sci-fi utopia, thanks to a new law passed in Virginia. On Friday the state's governor signed a ruling which will allow delivery robots to use its sidewalks and crosswalks from July 1st. Advised by Starship Technologies (an Estoninan robotics company that specializes in ground delivery) the legislation states that the bots cannot travel faster than ten miles per hour, or weigh over 50 pounds.
The new law will allow the little bots to roam the streets completely autonomously. In a bid to reduce collisions, however, Virginia requires them to remain under the watchful eye of the delivery company via remote monitoring. While the new law will undoubtedly make your commute a bit more interesting, the state confirmed that the potentially dog-upsetting legislation can be amended by local councils or even overturned completely if it becomes too problematic.
With Starship widely testing their bots across the U.S in January, it was really only ever a matter of time before the futuristic concept became reality. Unsurprisingly, it looks as though the Estonia-based company will be the first to benefit from the new law. Interestingly, online delivery businesses like Amazon and Grubhub also sent letters to Virginia's governor in support of the law, reaffirming their interest in the sector. Companies like Marble and Dispatch have also confirmed that they are working to bring their own autonomous bots to sidewalks.
With most people still rendered gobsmacked by the convenience ofAmazon Prime Now, it's impressive to think that consumers will soon be able to get a package delivered to their door by an autonomous robot. We may well be losing AIM soon, but when we're just months away from robo-postmen, it looks like 2017 might not be so bad after all.
Amazon's delivery drones could drop packages with parachutes
Amazon's much-anticipated (and long time coming) drone deliveries mighttechnically finally be happening, but a new patent spotted by CNN suggests your next book or box-set might actually arrive via parachute. There are many practical, legal and technical challenges that drone deliveries present -- and getting the parcel on the ground is just one of them.
So far, deliveries have been carried out in relatively controlled locations where a drone can land to release its cargo. A safe landing isn't possible everywhere, not to mention other environmental hazards such as humans, pets and other obstacles. Also, this is Amazon, where efficiency is king.
According to CNN, the patent proposes that Amazon's drones could complete deliveries by releasing the package from the air. The drone would watch from above, and attempt to adjust the package's descent with either a parachute, a burst of compressed air and other such mechanisms.
The first official delivery happened in Cambridge, UK in a location far away from the densely populated urban centers that most of us live in. If Amazon hopes to make drone deliveries a meaningful part of its distribution -- and a recent Super Bowl ad suggests it does -- then city-friendly solutions are essential.
Books and games floating down from the sky isn't even the weirdest idea Amazon's had for its drone deliveries. Another patent that surfaced at the end of last year described floating warehouses (think "blimp" motherships) that act as hubs that the relatively short-range drones would deploy from. Of course, a patent is just an idea on paper, and no real indication of intent to create.
Right now, Amazon's being beaten at the drone delivery game by unexpected airspace rival 7-Eleven, which has reportedly completed almost 100 aerial deliveries. Then, of course, there's the ever-changing red tape that comes with drones being used autonomously and for commercial use. But at least we can be sure Amazon's working to stamp each of those issues out.