Is commercial delivery justified by drones? Iceland is going to find out

Original author: Philip E. Ross
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Icelandic startup Aha challenges Amazon with simple burglar-borne drones

Aha delivery by drones works in Reykjavik up to 19 hours - on days when there is no strong wind, snow or rain.

Icelandic start-up Aha uses drones made for China and the Israeli logistics system to deliver hot food, products and electronics to the homes of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik.

This is the first such delivery in the world [ no ], and it also ignores the standard rules for the safety of air travel. These drones do not define and avoid obstacles - they have no radar, no cameras, or other imaging systems. They fly on GPS, on paths found free from trees, buildings and other obstacles. Over the past five months, the service has made 500 deliveries, and so far without a single victim.

It works like this: you drive an order into an app on a smartphone (“two hamburgers, without a bow”), the Aha cook loads an order for a drone. You track the delivery, go out to meet the drone, and if everything is fine at the point of discharge, you agree to accept it. Then the drone lowers your burgers on a string, and flies home with a buzz.

Delivery costs about $ 7. It pays for the service, says Maron Christofferson , the chief executive officer of Aha. “It takes 25 cents on electricity,” he says.

Delivery can take from 4 minutes, compared with 25 minute delivery on the roads with heavy traffic. This is ideal for hot food (the most popular product is burgers), but customers also like the delivery of products (the most popular is bananas) and equipment (mostly electronics).

Christofferson became interested in autonomous delivery technologies in 2014, looking for a way to cope with the rising cost of labor. Turning to the companies involved in drones, he found that most of them were indifferent to the tiny market of Iceland.

In 2015, he contacted Flytrex, a startup from Tel Aviv, who sold GPS drones to GPS lights. Flytrex has developed a logistics system based on these beacons, rather than doing the drone itself. “From my point of view, this approach was much more pragmatic,” says Christofferson.

“FedEx does not make trucks, they buy them,” says Yariv Bash, director of Flytrex. “We do the same with the drones. We have the know-how to choose the right drones and tailor them to our needs, but our core competencies lie in the field of logistics and cloud services. ”

Kristofferson told the Icelandic administration in charge of regulating airspace that they have a choice: Iceland may remain at the tail of the list of countries that have developed delivery by drones, or it may be in the front row. And to be in the forefront, it is necessary to develop safety rules.

More than a year of exchange took place, and Aha received a work permit. The first experimental deliveries began this year.

Aha uses DJI Matrice 600 Hexacopterscapable of carrying up to 3 kg of cargo and weighing 15 kg in full gear. They are able to fly 8 km - 4 km in one direction, and then back - which is enough to cover the entire Reykjavik from the center, where the company's headquarters is located. Flight paths of drones are constantly monitored to avoid new buildings. To reduce the risk of drones on the possibility of flying over the water and uninhabited industrial zones.

Initially, drones arrived at a dozen special relief points on the outskirts of the city. A company representative needed to wait for the drone and pick up the package from the cargo hold. Such deliveries allowed Aha to gain experience and calm regulators in terms of safety.

Then in August, the company received permission to lower parcels on a rope to selected homes. “The drone is capable of lowering the package practically on the mat in your backyard,” says Bash. You just have to convince the neighbors to agree with this.

But this rarely causes problems, says Christopherson. He argues that when mowing the lawn you give them more inconvenience.

Blind flights have been a controversial issue in other jurisdictions around the world. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration is holding on to its “feel and avoid” requirement. But the Office still allowed recent test flights, including those conducted by Wing , a division of Alphabet; in them the drone flies further than the operator can see.

Bash says that the two countries — he is not yet ready to reveal their names or even the continents — are already ready to resolve projects like Flytrex and Aha launched in Iceland. And why not, he says, if drones have less risk to deliver than many other permitted things in our lives.

“What's safer,” he asks, “allow a 16-year-old to drive a two-ton car to your house every time you want a hamburger, or send a 15-kg drone that does not suffer from a lack of sleep last night?”

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