Will flying delivery drones be a reality?

Before flying cars start appearing above our rooftops, we're likely to see pilotless drones adopted for commercial purposes.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

We all know how space and military technology eventually become part of our mainstream lives. The Internet itself was once a Pentagon project.

Is it possible that pilotless drones -- now used in combat zones as well as by some police departments -- will also be buzzing about our airspace for commercial purposes?  That's the prediction of Thomas Frey, who says flying cars may be hard to pull off in the near term, but flying delivery drones could easily be employed for everything from overnight package routing to pizza delivery. The drones would most likely take the form of "quadricopters" capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, essential for urban environments.

The process of managing a sustainable system of airborne commercial drones would eventually prepare us for flying cars with passengers, he relates. It will take some time to move to occupied flying vehicles due to the need for fully automated navigation systems ("the average person has a difficult time navigating on a two dimensional surface"), low-impact vertical take-off, convenient fly-drive capability, silent engines, and specialized safety systems.

UPDATE 11-Aug 2010: David Gerwitz at ZDNet just posted a story that Google is purchasing four pilotless microdrones to help with its mapping projects.  Already, commercial uses are coming into play.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards