O'Reilly logo

Just Ordinary Robots by Rinie van Est, Lamber Royakkers

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

131
4
DRonEs In thE CIty
Toward a Floating Robotic Panopticon?
4.1 Introduction: Amazon Prime Air
A few weeks before Christmas 2013, Amazon, the worlds largest
e-commerce company, revealed plans about Prime Air, a delivery
system that uses drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to deliver prod-
ucts to customers in 30minutes or less (see Figure 4.1). Its CEO,
Je Bezos, said on television that the drones could be ready to take
ight in 4 to 5years.* Amazons drones are small, unmanned octo-
copters or eight-rotor helicopters (helicopters with eight tiny rotors)
that use global positioning system (GPS) navigation and have elec-
tric motors. e current models have a range of 16 kilometers (or
9 miles), travel over 80km/h (or 50 mph), and can carry products
weighing less than 2.5kilograms (or 5.5 pounds) (a criterion that
covers 86% of the products oered on Amazon). Prime Air could
mean quick and ecient deliveries for consumers. Amazon’s goal
is to make this drone delivery service available to customers world-
wide as soon as it is permitted by legislation.
When Amazon rst announced the project in a video
released
in December 2013, a convenient time, just when the holiday shop-
ping season was heating up, many regarded it as a publicity stunt.
e companys petition of July 2014, asking that outdoor research
and development (R&D) testing for Prime Air be allowed in the
United States, sent to the U.S. air safety regulatory agency the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, reveals how
*
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-unveils-futuristic-plan-delivery-by-drone/.
http://www.amazon.com/b?node=8037720011.
132 Just ordinAry robots
serious this project is. In the petition, Amazon claims that it has
made advancements toward the development of highly automated
aerial vehicles for Prime Air, including:
Testing a range of capabilities for our eighth- and ninth-generation aerial
vehicles, including agility, ight duration, redundancy, and sense-and-
avoid sensors and algorithms; developing aerial vehicles that travel over
50 miles per hour, and will carry 5-pound payloads, which cover 86%
of products sold on Amazon; and attracting a growing team of world-
renowned roboticists, scientists, aeronautical engineers, remote sensing
experts, and a former NASA astronaut.*
Although Amazon has clearly invested a lot of capital and time into
this initiative, its technical completion and legislative approval might
take a long period. As indicated in the petition, existing U.S. laws
hinder Amazons R&D projects. According to the Economic Times
(based on anonymous sources), Amazon plans to test unmanned
aerial vehicles for deliveries in Mumbai and Bangalore, where it
maintains warehouses.
India has been chosen because it lacks the
more strident regulations on commercial drone usage found in other
countries. Regulatory clearances aside, Amazon will have to face a
number of challenges to get Prime Air o the ground. Losing com-
munication with the drones or other technical mishaps that cause a
drone to crash, possibly injuring people and/or damaging property
*
http://www.amazon.com/b?node=8037720011.
http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-08-20/news/53028827_1_
prime-air-drones-outdoors-amazon.
Figure 4.1 Amazon’s Prime Air. (Photo courtesy of Amazon.)

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required