As a number of companies, including Google and Amazon, battle it out for drone supremacy, Google has filed a patent for a drone-to-ground robot delivery system. The application for the patent is based on Google’s theory that having a drone-only delivery system may not be the safest route to go – as their rotating blades could be of danger to nearby pets, overhead power lines, small children, or even porch ceiling fans. They also point out that the drone may have to leave the package on a sidewalk near a busy street where it could be prone to vandals or thieves. Google’s “delivery receptacle” would send out an infrared (IR) signal that would guide the “aerial delivery device” to this receptacle to leave the package in a secure location. Once it receives the package, the delivery receptacle would move along the ground and deliver the package to a more secure location, such as a garage, and without danger to humans, pets, or inanimate objects.
Google points out that a typical delivery service – read that as USPS, UPS, FedEx – has hubs located across the US where bulk deliveries arrive and are then placed in local delivery trucks or smaller vehicles for delivery to the final customer. Google’s patent is doing the same thing only with drones delivering the packages quickly to their ‘hub’ or delivery receptacles that will then make the final delivery to the customer’s home. The difference being that the delivery system could be one of several methods – possibly a warehouse for the customer to pick up the package, a manned courier service if a proof of delivery or signature is required, a package delivery agent, or even an unmanned device that travels along the ground and not through the air.
The patent points out that Google believes there will be a tremendous growth in e-commerce, and with that growth, it will bring about an increased demand for package delivery and aerial drones can add to the delivery system. Amazon is already working on making home delivery via drones a reality in the not too distant future, while Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) is expecting to start tests with customers during the first part of 2017. Google points out that drones can be used for a variety of purposes, such as assisting in delivering medical supplies to disaster relief areas where it can be impossible for a large aircraft or even humans to be on the scene. Although, it does seem that delivering packages, while not quite as important as medical supplies, is going to be one of the main functions of drones.