An Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) is defined as a system that is included in at least an air platform, ground control and a datalink unit. Although this is enough for defining an Unmanned Aerial System in today’s world, the UAS concept involves many more elements such as autonomy, mission-based payload management and swarming.
At the beginning of the applications for UAS, the defence sector was dominant. Therefore a lot of application examples belong to this side. Through the development of cheap micro-controllers such as ardiuno, raspberry, Do It Yourself (DIY) robotic and IoT, examples can now be seen everywhere. The development of main-stream civil the UAS, called the drone, started as a side effect of this phenomena.
There are variety of essential areas of application for the UAS as they are utilized in projects such as Search and Rescue, Remote Sensing,Construction and Infrastructure Inspections, Precision Agriculture, Delivery of Goods, Real-Time Monitoring of Road Traffic, Surveillance Applications of UAV and the Provision of Wireless Coverage.
In this article, the most promising UASs today and for the future will be covered from related areas of application as listed above, with a focal point on the topic of UAV application for the delivery of goods.
Delivery of Goods
This is a very popular subject from the usage areas of UAS. Many delivery companies toward developing not only their shipping strategies but also concepts. Although there are many avoidances about airworthiness and legal regulations, development of these types of projects keep advancing forward at full throttle.
Today’s market size is about 8 billion $ and it is estimated that it will swell to around 30 billion $ by the end of 2027 according to ResearchandMarkets research.
Up until now, there have been so many different and futuristic UAS concepts introduced to the market. Despite the fact that Amazon has a lot of delivery concepts on the bench, it has also recently filed a patent for a self-driving airship. According to the filed patent, the big UAV which is much like a zeplin will store inventory and be used as a base to launch delivery drones.
The other big rival DHL has developed the third version of the parcelcopter. The parcelcopter is a kind of wing-tilt UAV platform which can complete VTOL then transition into forward flight. The concept of parcelcopter includes local distribution centers which store packages and serve a UAVport where the UAV can easily be deployed and land.
By using these ports, DHL aims to connect counties that cannot be reached easily by roadway vehicles and also to reduce delivery time.
Another example is UPS’s approach, entering into the market by modifying their trucks into a mobile UAV deployment vehicle.
According to this concept, the van arrives at the distribution center that is geometrically the closest point of delivery to addresses. The UAV platform is loaded automatically in the van as a second step. After that, the UAV is raised by a scissor lift mechanism and deployed.
There are many concepts about residential delivery that have been studied, however no large scale solution has been applied in the real world. But this does not mean that there is no real-world solution for all logistics items.
Healthcare logistics is an important example of sub-division of delivery of goods but it also is unique with real-world examples used officially in at least three countries.
Zipline is the pioneer in this sector which is supported by UPS and was founded from many non-profit organizations such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to Zipline’s concept, the fixed-wing UAV platform is launched by a launcher which contains a critical payload of medical items and medicine from a storage center. The UAV flies to the designated point autonomously and drops its package and then returns home. When the UAV returns home, a net catches the UAV in the air and provides a bag filled with air for it to fall upon.
Currently Zipline’s delivery system has been established in Rwanda and Ghana. Furthermore, the studies continue in Kenya. Numbers have been given indicating that they have completed 14617 lifesaving deliveries up to now.
Up to this point in the article, UAV delivery concepts have been explained. After this point, a patent pending UAV platform will be discussed, one which claims to be the most efficient platform not only for delivery of goods but also to areas where a UAV is needed.
The “Variable Volume UAV” concept is developed by Zyrone Dynamics. To define the concept in a single sentence, the Variable Volume UAV is an aircraft platform which is fast and has the endurance of a fixed-wing aircraft and can take-off and land and complete maneuvers like rotor aircraft (drones) but in the size of similar drones.
Thanks to patent-pending features, the UAV can resize its volume in the air by folding and expanding its wings. With this advantage, the UAV can fly into very narrow areas like drones. Furthermore, when it deploys its wings in the air, it flies at least 1.5 times longer/more and faster than a drone of the same size.
Platforms are scalable and can be applied easily for transporting any size of payload, even human.
In conclusion, although the delivery of goods via UAS appears to be a small slice of the cake, it is certainly the fastest growing field and is supported by large companies when compared to other areas of application.
With the development of autonomy, areas of application and the types of material to be transported are sure to increase rapidly.