For many drone enthusiasts, drone delivery services are by far one of the most anticipated events in the near future. This could be a factor that has inspired a recent move by Amazon, testing sidewalk drones which typically perform the same function as airborne drones. Amazon has promised drone deliveries through its latest invention, Scout. The catch with these gadgets is that unlike air based drones, Scouts are land based, meaning they don’t fly. In essence, they stroll along sidewalks making deliveries to customers.
Although there is very little to report on these gadgets as of now, Amazon’s step into the drone world makes them the latest company to use the robot aided gadgets for delivery purposes. Amazon’s Scout, which is powered by an electric battery, is a six-wheeled land drone. It moves somewhat slowly, or to be more precise, it moves at walking pace. At the moment, Amazon has only deployed six Scouts which are operating in Snohomish County, Washington. These land bound drones are making deliveries from Monday to Friday during daytime hours. According to Amazon, human overseers will accompany these robots at least for the time being. The role of these overseers is to ensure that the gadgets can effectively and safely navigate around various obstacles’ such as pedestrians or pets along their path.
Sidewalk delivery technology is still in its initial phase, and looking at Amazon’s scout it is evident that the company needs time to perfect the initiative. Unlike Amazon, however, another company called Starship performed a similar test. Although in this case, Starship deployed a van that carried a fleet of about eight sidewalk drones to deliver packages in a given neighborhood. They also used human workers to transport the delivery packages from the van to the sidewalk drones that subsequently delivered the items as instructed.
Although sidewalk delivery technology is a breakthrough, it is however not short of challenges. Firstly, there is the concern of whether or not these devices can be entirely self directed. They are also quite slow, though this can change over time. Another concern is that even if the companies work on the speed and autonomy of the devices, what do they do about packages getting stolen by thieves along the way? What’s more, can these robots navigate through problematic areas like an uneven sidewalk?
While it is evident that the technology exists, there are however numerous challenges that need to be overcome before this technology can become a mainstream trend. It may be some time before we see sidewalk drones strolling down our sidewalks. These tests by Amazon are definitely a positive step towards realizing the goal of faster autonomous same-day deliveries.