Drone deliveries are in the weird position of seeming both totally futuristic and also old news. While most of us haven’t yet been the recipient of a drone delivery (although they are happening), it’s also been a whole four years since Amazon first showed off concept footage of its Prime Air drone service. A U.K.-based product design and development firm, Cambridge Consultants, is here to put a new spin on the idea, however, and it’s pretty darn cool.
Nicknamed DelivAir, the concept is to use drones not just to deliver packages to your address, but right into your hands, regardless of where you are in the world. To do that, it uses GPS to track your phone location, since this is a much more accurate way of determining where you’re likely to be at any given moment than simply heading to the address you’re registered at. Once it’s in range, it uses image recognition technology to identify the correct recipient. The person expecting a delivery then confirms their identity by way of a flashed coded pattern sent by the phone LED flash, after which the drone drops your package down via a winch.
“The initial point of this project was to figure out a way to do drone deliveries while keeping the drone safely away from people,” engineer Sunil Gujral told Digital Trends. “Getting a powerful winch in a small package was one of the biggest challenges we faced, and required us to develop a bespoke winding mechanism.”
The concept may sound a little silly, but the idea of ultra-precise drone deliveries actually makes a whole lot of sense. One possible scenario in which this could be useful involves confidential deliveries. A more likely one might involve emergency deliveries — such as delivering an EpiPen or a defibrillator to a person in need — when they are away from home. “Particularly in cases where people’s lives are at risk after a natural disaster, drones such as this could come in very quickly and deliver individual packages of either food or medicine,” Gujral continued.
So when will such drone deliveries start taking place? Not for a while, sadly.
“Right now, this is a fully functional prototype,” Gujral said. “Everything you see in our demo video is possible and implemented. If you have a phone with the app and you’re in a locale where drone delivery is legally permitted, our drone can automatically fly to where your phone is and deliver a package. The caveat, of course, is that the number of places where you can fly a drone is still limited. That’s why we’re still describing this as a concept at this stage.”
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