Drone deliveries can delight

Civilian use of drones

November 19, 2013

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Drones may be best known for their military use to target militants and perform reconnaissance missions. But civilians are also touting the possibilities that drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, can bring.

Some uses aren’t too surprising. For instance, drones can be used by journalists to record aerial video and photos, by law enforcement officers or firefighters to see without putting officers at risk or by farmers to keep an eye on crops.

But media reports show that drones can do more than just take pictures or provide a unique view.

In June, a Domino’s franchise outside London delivered two large pepperoni pizzas via a UAV to a satisfied customer 4 miles away. According to the Daily Mail, Domino’s teamed up with an advertising agency to build a drone capable of delivering pizzas to its customers by flying them through the air. The 'Domicopter' bypassed crowded streets to reach its target quicker, carrying the pizzas in an insulated bag to keep them hot. While the test flight was successful, it was really just a publicity statement, the Mail reported.

In July, Harout Vartanian, owner of the Philadelphia-based Manayunk Cleaners, tried out a new marketing gimmick: sending his customers' their dry cleaning using a drone NBC reported. The venture brought the establishment much-needed attention, and Vartanian says he eventually plans to make all his deliveries drone-borne. See a delivery on YouTube.Drone with dry cleaning

At the August 2013 Oppikoppi festival in South Africa, concertgoers didn’t have to wait in line for a beverage, the The Huffington Post reported. A drone delivered cold beers to patrons who ordered it using a Smartphone app. It was delivered to them using a parachute and plastic cup. See it in action here.

Then, in October, CNN reported that Australia is poised to become the first country to offer textbook delivery using drones. Textbook rental startup Zookal plans to begin using drones to make its deliveries in Sydney, Australia next March, dropping off textbook purchases at an outdoor location of the customer's choosing. Both the location of the user and the drone's GPS coordinates are transmitted via a Smartphone app, and the company says deliveries can be completed in as little as two to three minutes once a drone takes flight. See how it works. 4-Drones_Zookal_textbooks.jpg

A Shanghai company used drones to deliver cakes earlier this year, Popular Science reported, but Incake Company suspended the service after police officials complained that the drones posed a threat to public safety.

Not all drone delivery schemes are frivolous or for food. The Huffington Post reports that Paola Santana and her co-founders at the Matternet plan on using drones to deliver medicine and supplies to infrastructure-poor parts of the world.

But it will likely be 2015 or later before drone deliveries take off, at least in the United States. According to the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, the FAA has until September 2015 to publish rules for usage of drones. But FAA officials acknowledged on Nov. 7 that they will not meet that deadline. That means for the next several years, use of drones in the U.S. will be limited to permits granted by the FAA on a case-by-case basis to operators who agree to procedures to reduce safety risks, Time.com reported.