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How do you extend the range of a drone? Put it on a bus, of course!
Now, while you might be thinking that we’re joking, that’s actually one of the findings to come out of new research from Stanford University.
You see, one of the reasons why drone deliveries still haven’t really caught on is because the average drone can only fly for about 30 minutes on a full battery. However, Stanford researchers say that the range of drones could be extended if they hitched rides on the top of buses.
The Stanford team, led by associate professors Mykel Kochenderfer and Marco Pavone, created computer models mapping drone deliveries across North San Francisco and Washington, DC. These models included public bus networks and tracked up to 200 delivery drones per city.
Each drone started out at a depot. A package was loaded and the drone was then used to deliver it. If the delivery address was within the drone’s range, it flew there direct. If the destination was out of range, the drone flew to the nearest bus stop, hitched a ride on the top of a bus and then delivered its package when it was within range.
After a delivery, the drone could either return to its depot of origin, or go to another nearby depot that had parcels waiting to be delivered. The computer model determined the most efficient way for the drones to operate, reducing delivery times.
As a result, the longest delivery time in North San Francisco was less than an hour and in Washington less than two hours. Furthermore, in both cities the drones were able to quadruple their effective flight range.
“Delivery drones are the future,” says Kochenderfer. “By using ground transit judiciously, drones have the potential to provide safe, clean and cost-effective transport”.
Related reading: Swarms of tiny drones could save lives by exploring unknown environments - https://www.polytec.co.uk/whats-new/swarm-of-tiny-drones-could-save-lives-by-exploring-unknown-environments.html