Amazon is in the news this holiday season for what it hopes to do during holiday seasons later this decade. On 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company is working on technology that will deliver packages via drones in the coming years. Lora Weiss is a lab chief scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and leads Georgia Tech's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) initiatives.
We are seeing the increasing interest and potential of integrating unmanned aircraft into civilian airspace, where safety is of immense importance. While we have progressed from remote control to way-point navigation, and from line-of-sight to non-line-of-sight communication, the next step could airspace ‘corridors’ for UAVs. An expansion of what Predators now fly along the U.S. border, these could evolve into UAV air-lanes, with well-defined boundaries for flights such as unmanned cargo transport. Logistics companies such as Fed Ex and UPS – which today fly only manned aircraft -- could help define where these transit corridors would be as they use UAVs to deliver packages from point A to point B. Unmanned cargo flights could begin with night operations, when air and ground activity is much reduced. These new, well-defined flight paths could also extend over water to provide fast, transoceanic cargo delivery. Now, if we only had a robot to handle customs.
The UAV of 2020 will be very different from what we fly today, and it will take the coordinated work of roboticists, aerodynamics engineers, and others to get us there.
For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact: