Drone delivery coming, but not quite yet, Purdue prof says - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Drone delivery coming, but not quite yet, Purdue prof says

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Researchers say the use of drones for deliveries isn't too far away. Researchers say the use of drones for deliveries isn't too far away.
Amazon released a video showing drones being used to ship their products. Amazon released a video showing drones being used to ship their products.
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The holiday shopping - and shipping - season is in full-swing and it may not be long before some of your holiday packages are delivered by drones.

Amazon revealed in a video how door-to-door drone drop-offs could be in store for a future Cyber Monday.

"Probably not in a year, because they have a number of unique challenges," said Purdue University professor John Nolfi.

Researchers at Purdue University are helping develop, build and fly the future. Engineering students and engineers say Amazon will have to fly around some technology turbulence before it can turn dreams into reality.

"Battery technology is definitely something that is limiting these vehicles," said senior engineering student Philippe Bongrain.

He says travel distances for commercial drones are limited now by cold temperatures, plus the weight of the package. Both cut down on battery life.

"You can carry 2-3 pounds on it," Bongrain said of the craft he helped design and build.

The weight of a book or our GoPro camera, at least for the smaller, three-engine model built at Purdue. But getting it to your door?

"Optimum conditions in here, no wind," said Nolfi inside the Purdue armory. "You almost always have crosswinds and a small five knot or 10 knot tends to drift it off its way point."

In a real world, that could "put it into a tree or something," or a house or a person.

And even though a good GPS system could get the bird to your backyard, "the greatest risk is, 'What if you lose the GPS signal?'" Nolfi said. "One of the issues you have to deal with is what is the shutdown protocol. It just can't fall out of the sky."

From pizza to police, all are looking at drone delivery or data-gathering. But Amazon and Domino's videos show the aircraft flying through unobstructed areas.

In real life?

"When you are down below the tree line, you have to have obstacle avoidance. You have things down there you can't predict," said Nolfi.

That includes people. The FAA is looking at new rules to keep these unmanned craft out of airplane space and legislators, including Indiana lawmakers, are looking at privacy issues. But one day, you could see a flying Santa at your back door.

"It's probable it's going to happen," Nolfi said.

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