Airbus’ delivery drone takes packages to ‘parcel stations’ run by robots

Keen to prevent the competition from racing away, Airbus is getting into the drone delivery game with its own autonomous flying machine.

A slew of companies are developing and testing drone delivery platforms, among them Amazon, Google, Walmart, and Airbus rival Boeing.

Airbus’s “Skyways” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) recently completed its first flight demonstration at the National University of Singapore.

The system uses so-called “parcel stations” located in places such as the top of high buildings. As the video above shows, the drone flies onto the station, whereupon automatic sliders gently push the UAV into the precise position so it can receive a parcel from below.

With the drone ready and waiting, a robotic arm inside the station grabs the designated parcel before passing it through an open space in the roof and attaching it to the drone. The machine then flies off to make the delivery at another parcel station, with the robot taking the package from the drone and placing it in a locker for collection. A notification is then sent to the recipient who can come and fetch it at a time of their choosing.

Airbus’s octocopter weighs around 55 pounds (25 kg) and can carry packages of up to almost 9 pounds (4 kg).

Leo Jeoh of Airbus Helicopters said that Project Skyways is an effort to solve the tricky challenge of making drone deliveries in urban areas, with its system focusing on high-tech collection and drop-off points rather than deliveries to home addresses.

The recent demonstration at the University of Singapore was declared a success by those involved, although Jeoh said Skyways is “not fully there yet to be able to launch a service.”

The executive elaborated: “What we need to do is to be able to master the autonomy aspects of navigation, ensure the safety level of our product … and then launch the service on the university campus, and from there understand what it takes to operate and maintain the system … and whether it makes commercial sense to develop this to the next stage.”

The idea of using a docking station reminds us of another system developed by California-based startup Matternet. Working with Swiss Post, the drone delivery system is now up and running, transporting medical items between health facilities. The drone lands on fixed docking stations and deposits the package securely for an employee to come and collect by scanning a QR code.

While the likes of Amazon grapple with the challenges of developing a drone system that can safely deliver goods to customers in urban areas, fixed delivery stops for specific services look set to gain traction first.

Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s main Falcon Heavy booster is lost at sea after falling off drone ship

SpaceX has lost the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket after a successful mission last week that ended with it landing on a drone ship. SpaceX said rough seas resulted in the rocket toppling over and falling into the ocean.
Emerging Tech

Watch the fearsome DroneHunter X3 pluck rogue UAVs out of the sky

How do you stop enemy drones in their tracks? DroneHunter X3 is a new autonomous anti-drone technology which outruns and then captures rogue drones in midair. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?