DroneUp, a leading autonomous drone delivery provider, and Wonder Robotics, an Israeli startup for autonomous solutions for drones and eVTOLs – electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, completed a successful initial operational evaluation of DroneUp’s drone platform to achieve a higher level of autonomy and safety. Wonder Robotics’s autonomy technology will allow DroneUp to continue growing operations while maintaining its commitment to safety.
For the evaluation, Wonder Robotics’ proprietary “WonderLand” solution was installed on DroneUp drones, enabling smart precision autonomous landing, accurate winch delivery, and an advanced contingency plan. In addition to the improvements to precision, the WonderLand technology will allow a single flight engineer to safely and autonomously oversee multiple drone deliveries simultaneously, a crucial aspect to scaling DroneUp’s operation.
“Our technology is a BVLOS or beyond visual line of sight operation enabler for scalable drone services allowing the service provider or mission manager to safely operate multiple drones per site,” said Idan Shimon, co-founder, and CEO of Wonder Robotics. “Wonder Robotics’ goal is to provide a reliable technology that will make drone services safe and economical and to help with future regulatory rules for scalable, safe drone delivery.”
Shimon said that medical logistics and other B2B drone deliveries are among the first use cases to move forward. “That’s because health systems continue to face increasing challenges for routine specimen, prescription, and equipment transport as a result of workforce disruptions, resource availability, and supply chain bottlenecks,” Shimon said.
Following the introduction of drone deliveries to the medical domain, Wonder Robotics believes the next use case to grow rapidly will be shipments of items to and from offshore facilities or ships. “Bringing supplies (including medical items) and even cash money to and from such ships that are sometimes sailing or anchoring not far from the shore for months, especially next to large harbors, as well as shipment to offshore facilities, is an amazing use case that is starting to grow, especially in the far east but also in the U.S.,” Shimon said.
“Shore-to-ship-to-shore deliveries oblige a variety of autonomous capabilities, including the ability to land precisely and safely on an offshore deck with no unique marker on the deck, a requirement that to date, only our technology can accomplish, by modeling the deck in 3D during the landing and landing safely on the deck while avoiding static and moving obstacles on deck,” Shimon added.
That’s not to say that other industries, such as retailers and brands have not started to adopt drone deliveries, but development of these in B2C deliveries moves a bit slower as they are more sensitive to delivery costs. This is in contrast to the medical field where they are cost conscious but in order to save lives, patients get access to advanced medical care closer to their homes.
Most big retailers and brands already have a drone delivery project running at various stages, Shimon said. “Also, the large shipping companies, like UPS , DHL, and Fedex, have all considered this logistical asset,” he added. “This goes for shipping companies and large retailers who are continuously looking to optimize last mile and mid-mile deliveries between hubs and stores, with larger cargo drones.”
Among the biggest and most famous drone delivery operations are with Amazon
. Both have been investing heavily in drone deliveries as part of the ever-growing need to improve service and reduce last mile delivery time.
In that respect, Walmart appears to have an advantage for operating 4,700 stores stocked with more than 100,000 of the most-purchased items, located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. This makes the retailer uniquely positioned to execute drone deliveries.
Nevertheless, drone deliveries aren’t easy. Achieving a viable solution, that is competitive to other transportation methods requires a combination of advanced technology, high safety standards, and low costs. That’s why Amazon has been struggling for several years, after it developed a high-quality product in-house which is too big and expensive for the market.
“The uniqueness of our technology is that it provides a high level of safety and autonomy but is still small, light-weight and highly affordable,” Shimon said. “So, using our technology, drone companies can achieve the level of safety and autonomy they need, to reduce the number of people involved in the drone operations, while increasing its safety. Those are the two enablers necessary for this domain to really scale up.”
“Not only does implementing this into our tech stack improve individual deliveries, but it also gives us a clearer path towards scaling our operation as drone delivery becomes more and more popular every year,” said DroneUp chief technology officer John Vernon.
Winch delivery and drone mailboxes are the two main dominant methods of delivery by drone. “A winch is a mechanical device that is used to pull in (wind up) or let out (wind out) a rope or wire rope, also called “cable” or “wire cable.”
“Winch delivery uses this mechanism to lower the package and it is especially popular as currently most deliveries are performed in more rural areas with private houses with yards that have larger safe drop zones, compared to urban environments with residential and office buildings. In the U.S., these rural areas are more common, making drone deliveries more effective.
“Google Wing, Flytrex, DroneUp and recently even Zipline have adopted the winch delivery method,” Shimon said. “One advantage is that the drone doesn’t need to land and can safely lower the package from high above, reducing risk and noise.
Drone mailboxes, also known as kiosks, towers, or docking station deliveries are a kind of station or mailbox outside your home to which the package will be delivered. The drone will land on the box, put the package there and then fly away. The customer will be notified that the package has been delivered. They can then walk to the box and take the package. These boxes will be next to an apartment building, or on a roof.
“Wonder Robotics’ WonderLand technology includes vertical awareness (Vertical Detect And Avoid) and robust precision landing, allowing drones to operate at scale while beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) from an operator or visual observer,” Shimon said. “In urban environments, this includes obstacle avoidance systems so drones can navigate around common settings such as trees, buildings, cables, and more to safely deliver packages quickly.”
“Commitment to safe operation is our top priority, and exploring cutting-edge technology like Wonderland is so important to stay on that course,” said Vernon. DroneUp will be validating Wonder Robotics’ technology in several areas through more operational flight tests.
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