Ah, so this is why the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proceeding with caution when it comes to regulating commercial drones.
A demonstration in the Russian city of Ulan-Ude this week was supposed to showcase a safe and efficient drone delivery system, but its maiden flight didn’t quite go according to plan, Reuters reported.
A video (below) of the event shows that within seconds of it taking off, the custom-built octocopter appeared to malfunction before careering at speed into the side of an apartment block and crashing to the ground. Fortunately no one was hurt when it came down, though the video shows that it was clearly a close call.
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The plan had been to send the $20,000 drone and its package to an address in the sparsely populated Buryatia region. But after the hefty-looking flying machine hit the building, it was only going to go in one direction. Down.
With the “Russian Post” logo emblazoned on the launchpad and also stuck on the side of the package, you’d be forgiven for thinking the event had been sponsored by that very organization. But according to Reuters, Russian Post appeared keen to disown the demonstration before the dust had even settled, claiming it was simply a guest at the event rather than an active participant.
One of the officials who witnessed the crash claimed that multiple Wi-Fi connections in the area could have disrupted the drone’s flight systems, causing it to lose control.
The official is reported to have said that the team behind the technology will “keep trying,” adding, “Those who don’t risk don’t get a result.”
The disastrous demonstration highlights the kinds of challenges engineers face when it comes to building a reliable, efficient, and safe drone delivery platform.
Amazon, which was one of the first companies to suggest the idea back in 2013, has been working diligently to create a system using autonomous drones, but before it can start flying items from its warehouses to customers, it must first convince the FAA that it can operate without incidents like this.
While the Russian effort clearly came a cropper, let’s not forget there have been plenty of successful drone delivery demonstrations over the past few years, with a range of unmanned flying machines dropping off everything from pizza and donuts to medical supplies. Drone delivery is coming, but it’s not quite ready for prime time.
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