Drones: have I seen the future?

Drones: have I seen the future?

Posted by

Martin Brown

April 2016

I waver over drones. Part of me thinks they are nothing more than buzzy and annoying propeller-powered flying things, mostly used for action flying photography.

And then part of me thinks I’m being a luddite when I happened across an article about the Drone Championships in Dubai which was won by a British teenager (some of the footage is sensational).

So, flip-flop. Drone like, not like.

And then I saw a story about this April’s Connected Fleets Europe conference in Amsterdam, where the first autonomous land-based delivery drone will be revealed.

Called the Starship, it’s a basically a small six-wheeled delivery vehicle, that is capable of precision autonomous driving of within a one inch margin of error and carries up to 40lbs of weight.

Just think of the possibilities…

We could send the Starship out on the lunchtime sandwich run from Fleet Alliance HQ. I could even borrow it at the weekend and use it at home to collect my Friday night takeaway (although, at the moment I have to admit I’m hooked on the excellent Deliveroo app, so maybe not.)

But Deliveroo is of the moment. Is a six wheeled drone going to work in the future? Well, maybe. The Starship is the work of the co-founders of Skype. So there’s real pedigree there.

And drones, along with autonomous driving, are certainly becoming increasingly part of the automotive landscape.

At the recent Geneva Motor Show, Rinspeed showed the Etos. Okay, so on the outside it looks like a badly modded BMW i8, but it’s the technology that’s more interesting.

Why? Well, I reckon this Etos gives the best idea of what an autonomous sports car would be like. Inside, it features a retractable steering wheel and two 21.5-inch HD widescreen displays hooked up to the car’s infotainment system. Then, basically it learns the driver’s driving habits and eliminates blind spots via eight exterior cameras.

Rinspeed do whacky so clearly you wouldn’t expect anything less than a landing deck for your own…yes, drone. Rinspeed clearly have seen the future.

But how about this for one last thought on drones. How about your own full-size flying drone? The Chinese company EHang showed the full-size 184 drone at this year’s CES in the States.

Powered by a battery and capable of taking one passenger, it even boasts 140bhp from its four rotors. On top of this, it is programmable for autonomous flight; the only downside is that the battery lasts just 23 minutes before needing a full four-hour recharge.

Still, it would be perfect for my office commute and make it rather fun – I wonder if I can get the managing agents to agree to a landing pad at the top of our Sky Park HQ?

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