FAA Takes Steps to Enable a Future of Airborne Drone Deliveries

By Hugo Britt 

It is only a matter of time before the skies above U.S. cities are filled with the buzzing of airborne delivery drones.

With e-Commerce sales increasing by more than 30% between 2019 and 2020 (and an expected 11% increase in 2021), the way we approach our purchases has shifted for good. Delivery methods, too, are undergoing a period of rapid change.

In fact, you might say last mile delivery is up in the air.

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Botswana begins medical drone delivery service to prevent maternal deaths

By Ishveena Singh 

This month, Botswana became the first country in southern Africa, and the third in Africa, to begin the use of medical delivery drones. Their aim? To bring down maternal mortality by delivering life-saving health supplies to hard-to-reach communities in a timely manner.

The initiative, called “Drones for Health,” has been made possible through a collaboration between Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Unlike Ghana and Rwanda, where US-based drone company Zipline has been delivering on-demand medical supplies to remote areas, the drone delivery ecosystem platform for Botswana has been developed in partnership with Dutch drone engineering company Avy.

The Avy Aera drone can travel a distance of 100 km on a single charge, carrying cargo weighing up to 2 kg. An uber-cool, interactive flight simulation page will show you three drones taking off from a BIUST drone port and flying to different communities of Botswana.

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UK postal service tests autonomous drone deliveries to remote islands

The drones will be used to carry COVID testing kits and assorted mail. 

By S. Shah

It’s not just online and big-box retailers that are exploring deliveries by drone. Following in the footsteps of the Swiss Post, the UK’s Royal Mail is the latest postal service to trial drone flights. The company has announced a landmark project to deliver packages — including personal protective equipment, COVID testing kits and assorted mail — to a UK island using an autonomous Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV). 

As part of the government-backed project, a large drone will take off from the mainland and fly to the Scilly Isles (a remote archipelago off the Cornish coast in southwest England). The twin-engine UAV can carry up to 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes, which the Royal Mail said is equivalent to a typical delivery round. Thereafter, a smaller vertical take-off and landing drone will be used to fly parcels between the islands to recipients.

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Kroger, Drone Express Begin New Drone Grocery Delivery Program

Posted By: Miriam McNabb

Drone Express and Kroger begin testing drone grocery delivery in a pilot program – part of the retailer’s goal of providing customers with “anything, anytime, anywhere,” says a company press release.

The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) and Drone Express, a division of TELEGRID Technologies, Inc., will offer package delivery near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, Ohio.

“Kroger’s new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our rapidly growing and innovative e-commerce business – which includes pickup, delivery, and ship and reached more than $10 billion in sales in 2020,” said Kroger’s Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience. “The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern, cost-effective, and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions.”

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Precision farming company raises $20M to deploy herbicide-spraying AI drone swarms

Canada-based agritech startup Precision AI has raised seed funding of $20 million to help the agriculture industry reduce its chemical footprint. Its solution? Deploying swarms of artificially intelligent drones to bring down the use of herbicides in agriculture dramatically.

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Staggering approval for Alphabet drone among early customers

By Greg Nichols 

Since October 2019, Alphabet’s Wing has operated a drone delivery service five days per week in the tiny hamlet of Christiansburg, Virginia; a community of just over 20,000. The early testbed has been one to watch for a delivery drone sector that’s just emerging from in a slowly evolving regulatory regime.  

Key to the future of drone delivery is positive consumer sentiment. So how do the people of Christiansburg feel about the delivery drone service that’s made their community one of a small number of canaries in the coal mine for the consumer drone sector?  

In short, they love it.

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Doosan Hydrogen Drones Take Flight in the Netherlands

Posted By: Miriam McNabbon:

Doosan hydrogen drones will take flight in the Netherlands, testing offshore solutions including drone delivery, marine monitoring, and search and rescue.

South Korean Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) has penned a deal with Dutch government agency NHN (Development Agency Noord-Holland Noord, NHN), a regional development organization and governing agency for maritime economic development support project METIP.

As part of the METIP project, METIP partner DroneQ Aerial Services will be the local drone services provider, operating the Doosan hydrogen drones.   The Doosan solutions feature hydrogen fuel cell “powerpacks” which give their commercial platforms a flight endurance of more than 2 hours.  Projects will include drone delivery, lifesaving applications like search and rescue, environmental monitoring, facility inspections and reconnaisance.

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Level 4 aerial autonomy: Drones can now fly themselves

Firm achieves highest level aerial autonomy yet documented. Why that’s a game changer.

By Greg Nichols 

A company that develops autonomous drone technology for industry and defense achieved a milestone heretofore reserved for land-based vehicles: Level 4 autonomy. This appears to be the first successful demonstration of level 4 autonomy in an aerial system.

We’ve tracked the company, Exyn Technologies, particularly its national defense aspirations. As I wrote in early 2020, Exyn began developing for the enterprise and is active in sectors like oil and gas and infrastructure inspection. The company’s drones are designed to work in complex, GPS-denied environments where unknown terrain and uncertain ground conditions can make flying perilous. This mission brief has also led Exyn to explore defense industry applications.

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Genesis broke a world record for the most drones in the sky

By J. Fingas

Drone shows are quickly becoming the tool of choice for people and companies that want to grab your attention, and Genesis knows that all too well. The Hyundai-owned car brand marked its entrance into China by breaking the Guinness World Record for the most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the air at the same time, using 3,281 drones to display its logo and otherwise advertise over Shanghai on March 29th.

It’s a significant improvement over the previous record holder, Shenzhen Damoda Intelligent Control Technology. The company flew ‘just’ 3,051 drones in September 2020. That, in turn, smashed a record set by a 2,200-drone performance in Russia just days earlier. Intel, which has a reputation for drone light shows, last claimed the record with 2,066 drones flying over Folsom, California in July 2018.

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Hong Kong airline aims to transport passengers for $25, using drones

Seaplane Hong Kong is looking to the future as it one day aims to transport passengers around the country via drones for as little as $25. The goal is to make hiring a transport drone as easy and painless to do as ordering a car from a ride-sharing service today.

The company hopes to have the drones up and fly before the end of the year, depending on regulatory approval. It isn’t clear what drone the company will be using now, but it seems likely that it will be using EHang’s 216 passenger drone.

The drone transport will allow flights from Hong Kong Central to Kwun Tong and TKO (Tseung Kwan O), cutting down the travel time from 18 minutes to just 6 minutes, a time difference that doesn’t seem a lot, but for future flights that are farther, the time difference will increase.

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Drones vs. hungry moths: Dutch use hi-tech to protect crops

Technology eliminates the need to use chemicals to kill pests

By MIKE CORDER | The Associated Press

A moth-killing drone hovers over crops in a green house in Monster, Netherlands, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. A Dutch startup is using drones to kill moths in midair as a way of protecting valuable crops in greenhouses that are damaged by caterpillars.

MONSTER, NETHERLANDS — Dutch cress grower Rob Baan has enlisted high-tech helpers to tackle a pest in his greenhouses: palm-sized drones seek and destroy moths that produce caterpillars that can chew up his crops.

“I have unique products where you don’t get certification to spray chemicals and I don’t want it,” Baan said in an interview in a greenhouse bathed in the pink glow of LED lights that help his seedlings grow. His company, Koppert Cress, exports aromatic seedlings, plants and flowers to top-end restaurants around the world.

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Samsung Electronics launches drone deliveries in Ireland

By Park Eel-kyung & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea

SEOUL, March 26 (UPI) — Samsung Electronics has launched drone delivery service of smartphones and other digital gadgets within minutes of an order in Ireland.

The company said Wednesday it launched the new service this week in Oranmore, some 125 miles west of Dublin, through a partnership with Ireland’s Manna Drone Delivery.

When customers make an online order via Samsung’s Irish website, a drone will fly at a speed of 35 mph to reach homes in Oranmore within three minutes, according to Samsung.

Available through the service are such products as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Galaxy Buds Pro, the Galaxy Tab S7, the Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy A series phones.

Samsung aims to expand the service across Ireland for now.

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