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Drones – The Birth of a New Transportation Mode

"I believe we’re witnessing the birth of a new transportation mode, one that will take many years to develop and mature (but will probably happen sooner than we think)." By Adrian Gonzalez

When it comes to moving goods from one place to another, you have various transportation options: you can transport products by airplane, train, truck, or ship. You can also transport them by bicycle, horse, or donkey, or you can walk them over yourself.

New technological advancements in each of these modes will continue to make them faster, cheaper, and smarter in the years ahead (except, maybe, for the horse and donkey). Just look at the rise of driverless cars, for example. There’s been a lot of buzz about this technology the past couple of years, with companies like GoogleVolvo, and Ford (among many others) making news in this area. In a speech last year at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. predicted that fully autonomous cars will hit the road by 2025.

But there lies the problem, or at least the limitation with driverless cars. What if you live in a place where there are no roads? Or the roads are flooded or impassable half the time? Or the roads are so congested with traffic, you’re better off walking?

Enter the birth of a new transportation mode: drones.

While drones (also called unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems) are best known for their military applications and villainous roles in Hollywood movies, the technology has advanced so much in recent years, that you can buy a drone for $500 to $1,000 today, with many of the advanced capabilities found in military models (minus the weapons, of course).

I first read about this trend last July in a Wired article titled “Here Come the Drones” by Chris Anderson, who started the online community DIY Drones and co-founded 3D Robotics. Here is an excerpt from the article that captures the essence of this trend:

All told, there are probably around 1,000 new personal drones that take to the sky every month…And the personal drone industry is growing much faster [than the military one].

Why? The reason is the same as with every other digital technology: a Moore’s-law-style pace where performance regularly doubles while size and price plummet. In fact, the Moore’s law of drone technology is currently accelerating, thanks to the smartphone industry, which relies on the same components — sensors, optics, batteries, and embedded processors — all of them growing smaller and faster each year. Just as the 1970s saw the birth and rise of the personal computer, this decade will see the ascendance of the personal drone. We are entering the Drone Age.

What exactly is a drone? I like Anderson’s definition: “Aircraft that have the capability of autonomous flight, which means they can follow a mission from point to point (typically guided by GPS, but soon this will also be possible through vision and other sensors)…Usually drones carry some sort of payload, which at a bare minimum includes cameras or other sensors as well as some method to transmit data wirelessly back to a base.”

The most visionary idea I’ve seen, however, comes from Matternet, which aims to “do for physical transportation what the Internet did for the flow of information.”

Watch the short video below for a great overview of the transportation problem Matternet is trying to solve with its proposed network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ground stations, and operating system.

Watch the short video below for a great overview of the transportation problem Matternet is trying to solve with its proposed network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ground stations, and operating system.

To read the full article, go to “Logistics Viewpoints: A Blog for Logistics, Supply Chain, and 3PL Executives” by Adrian Gonzalez

1 Comments (displaying chronologically) Post a comment
Posted by leoywang  on  08/26  at  09:09 PM

The technology going to dominate the behavior of the human society and benefit people, specially the social vulnerable groups. Amazing idea~

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