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Dan Clemmensen

Simple-minded delivery drones are silly

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Today's article on delivery drones:

makes is clear that electric quadcopter drones are a truly dumb idea.  However, there are alternatives.

  • Warehouse in the sky
  • tilt rotor
  • dirigible

The fundamental problem described in the article is the energy cost of drone delivery. The article did not mention all of the other horrible problems that must be overcome.  The energy problem is due to simple laws of physics: it take a lot of energy to lift a load using vertical thrust alone.  There are ways around this, however. One possibility is to do most of the lifting using blimps, to keep an blimp-supported warehouse in the sky supplied. Drones would then deliver items from the warehouse directly to customers. This needs much less energy. Another idea is a tiltrotor drone. A tiltrotor operated as an ordinary aircraft except when it needs to take off, land, or hover. As an ordinary aircraft, it uses much less energy than when operating as a helicopter. Finally, a drone can operate as a dirigible, with most lift provided by  hot air.  All of these  approaches can be integrated. In particular, the warehouse delivery blimps can return drones back to the warehouse blimps, so the drones do not need to climb back up on their own.

With this approach the energy problem is "solved." It does not solve some the other problems, such as suitable customer package landing, that must be overcome to allow  the use of drone delivery.

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