The drones are here!

Alibaba is a company in China. They are the first company to launch drones for deliveries! Apparently the trial will last three days and be limited to areas within a one-hour flight of its distribution centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Amazon, Google and parcel service UPS are among other companies carrying out more private trials of such aircraft.

Alibaba is using its drones to deliver orders for a specific type of ginger tea, helping limit the maximum weight of the packages to 340g (12oz).

The Tech in Asia blog, which was one of the first to report the development, said the experiment was being undertaken by Alibaba’s Taobao division – an eBay-like marketplace that connects third-party sellers and buyers – and would involve 450 shoppers.

Alibaba

Do you think that these are trustworthy?

Would you want your delivery to be brought to your front door by a robot drone?

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12 thoughts on “The drones are here!

  1. i would not want the drones to deliver my parcel because if it crashes i wouldn’t get my parcel and if it does make it my parcel could’ve broken

      

  2. I am going to do a separate post abut using drones for good effect. It’s important that I present an unbiased view!

    Some updates to our questions above from an article in The Guardian yesterday http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/07/battle-of-drones-amateurs-taking-on-tech-giants:

    “The CAA currently operates restrictions intended for model aircraft, which means that drones cannot be flown beyond human sightlines (assumed to be 150 metres), nor flown within 50 metres of any other object, which effectively bans drones from our cities, and certainly from our back gardens. There is spectacular aerial footage on YouTube of London landmarks – including Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London surrounded by its sea of red poppies – but all were filmed illegally, by tourists using drones.”

    “At the moment, drones have no inherent means of avoiding other objects” though they are working on crash-avoidance capabilities, using sonar or advanced GPS.”

    ” The US military has flown drones since the 1950s, and launched the first weaponised drone in 1994. It now has 10,000 machines operating under strict military secrecy. The US has much stricter rules. You cannot fly a drone within 30 miles of downtown DC, for instance, even a super-small hobby drone. The National Parks have banned drones entirely.”

    “Last month, the broadcaster CNN got a licence to film over US cities. Yet the process of liberalisation may be far from smooth. The US military has a poor safety record: at least 49 military drones have crashed in America since 2001. In April 2014, a drone flown by a National Guard unit nose-dived into the ground outside a Pennsylvania school. A drone with a 20m wingspan has been missing over Lake Ontario since 2013, presumed to be in the water.”

    “Meanwhile, airline pilots’ associations in the UK and the US are determined to see the laws tightened, not loosened. They insist drones should be operated only by trained pilots – their members. The US pilots’ association has published a report covering 15 near-misses in the past two years, when drones have flown too close to commercial aeroplanes. In the UK, the air safety authority is investigating a report that a drone interfered with the landing of an Airbus at Heathrow in June 2014.”

    “Do not minimise the potential dangers of widespread drone use. Battery life is limited. The drones do not work well in poor weather: rain can affect the motors, strong winds can blow them off course, while cloud cover and solar flares interfere with GPS. “People don’t realise that GPS is not that reliable, especially in a city. It bounces off buildings, which can slow down signals. There’s also the risk of GPS jamming – jammers are supposed to be military-only technology, but you can buy a jammer on eBay.” A gadget called the TRC-3 Universal Jammer is, indeed, easily found online, and promises to jam the microwave signals between a GPS satellite and a drone”

      

  3. One thing though – can you think of situations where drones may be used for good purposes? There are some!!

      

    • @nic schofield</@nic schofield: Maybe it could be used for police watching maybe a night club, or an illegal black market, before they take any action. This would be quite useful for them, because it would ensure that if it had been reported that they had been doing naughty things, the police could see them, without actually going there, because people would act differently when police are there.

        

  4. Are drones basically like mini planes? Very long and detailed comment Nicola. I would NEVER get a drone either. They are a bit worrying. In fact, a LOT!

      

    • Yes, Priya. Lots of TV programmes have drones, to make people crave them, so when it comes out, everyone buys it! I would NEVER want to have delivery drone.

        

    • Yes, Priya, they are really the same as remote-controlled toy planes. But vary in size and some are like helicopters, not planes. I understand that in the UK military, the “proper” big ones have to be “flown” by a qualified pilot, but that’s not necessarily the case in the US. I think (only think) that some are flown by remote control eg a pilot controls them from a base a long way away, and it seems as if he is flying the plane, and some are pre-programmed. We need to find out more factual information, I’ll see if Twitter can help us. I worry because near my tiny village in West Wales there is now a big military drone base and sometimes they fly them over land, not sea. They are also noisy (like lawn mowers).

      I cheated on my comment – most of it is from the newspaper (in quotes).

        

  5. Shahzeb, you know how much the invention & use of drones scares me. That’s why I have never done a post on them!

    To answer your specific questions (!) – I think the drones themselves are trustworthy if the tech is reliable, but its the operators and their programming I worry about! I also worry about them knocking into people. I also worry about global positioning satellites (GPS) going wrong and sending them the wrong way. (Do they ever go wrong? Can you find out please?)

    They have been used for horrific purposes abroad. I think that removing face to face human operation of aircraft stops people thinking too closely about the consequences of what they are doing, and that this can never be a good thing.

    In the UK we have strict aviation rules concerning drones – I believe they can’t be flown within a certain distance of a crowded place and not beyond the operator’s line of sight (see article quoted below). Of course, this assumes that the people operating the drones are law abiding citizens with good intent.

    They have been used maliciously in the UK – from the Daily Mail last October:
    “A suspected drone pilot has been arrested after a device was flown over a packed football stadium in Manchester, police have said.
    The 41-year-old man was held in the car park of an Asda supermarket near Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium after reports of a drone flying over a stand during Saturday’s match against Tottenham Hotspur.
    The man, from the Nottingham area, was arrested on suspicion of breaching the air navigation order and bailed for two months while police make further inquiries.
    Greater Manchester Police released a photograph of the small white drone. It was not clear what it was used for.
    Chief Inspector Chris Hill said: ‘The drones could pose a threat to crowd safety and potentially cause alarm in crowded areas.
    ‘Even small drones can weigh up to seven or eight kilograms and could cause damage or injury if they fall from height. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
    ‘People may see this as a minor offence but it is a breach of the Air Navigation Order which is prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority.’
    More than 45,000 people attended the Premier League match, which Manchester City won 4-1.
    It comes just a week after a drone carrying a contentious banner caused Serbia’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Albania to be abandoned.
    Operating rules for drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – state that they must never be flown beyond the normal, unaided line of sight of their operator.
    UAVs fitted with cameras must always be flown at least 50 metres away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.
    They must not be flown within 150 metres of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.
    Greater Manchester Police released a photograph of the small white drone. It was not clear what it was used for.
    Chief Inspector Chris Hill said: ‘The drones could pose a threat to crowd safety and potentially cause alarm in crowded areas.
    ‘Even small drones can weigh up to seven or eight kilograms and could cause damage or injury if they fall from height. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
    ‘People may see this as a minor offence but it is a breach of the Air Navigation Order which is prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority.’
    The Civil Aviation Authority has concluded two cases involving a breach of rules on drone flights this year.
    In April, a man became the first person in the UK to be successfully prosecuted for dangerous and illegal flying of an unmanned aircraft. He was fined £800 after flying a device in restricted airspace over a nuclear submarine facility.
    In May, another man was fined £300 after he was accused of flying a quadcopter device over a number of rides at theme park Alton Towers in Staffordshire.
    The incidents took place in August and November last year respectively.
    Magistrates can fine culprits up to £5,000.”

      

    • @nic schofield:
      Really, you “cheated!”. Well I don’t mind, because it was heathing interesting! I have heard about the drone that flew over the football stadium- naughty people- using advanced and useful technology to mess around, and do.. illegal stuff! This is good technology, but it should be put to USEFUL uses (if anything that is).

        

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