Category Archives: Projects

Drone delivery economics: are Amazon drones economically worth it?

Every day 110 million orders are placed online. 91% of those orders — 100 million of them — are less than 5 pounds. If just 1% of those were delivered by drones, that would be 1 million drone package deliveries per day.

That’s according to economic research firm Skylark Services, which is forecasting that the world will see 8 million operations per day within 20 years on the pessimistic end, and as many as 86 million package deliveries per day within 20 years on the optimistic end.

For a typical FedEx package that costs $8.50, the ground costs are approximately $2.72, according to Skylark Services. Amazon’s purported cost of last-mile delivery with USPS is $2.50. Hence, $2.50 becomes the benchmark for whether or not drone delivery is economically worth it.

Here’s how that cost breaks down, based on average data from 25 commercial drone operators:

  • Wholesale cost of an individual commercial-grade battery that can power a drone weighing up to five pounds and for at least 10 miles is $100 when purchased in bulk
  • Battery life for each commercial-grade battery is at least 250 hours
  • Cost of 4 motors that can lift a 10-pound drone that can travel at least 6 miles is less than $60 for each one and the motor can be expected to last for approximately 750 hours
  • Wholesale cost of a set of four commercial-grade rotors is $1
  • Marginal electricity costs to be approximately $.25 per trip


Coupled with the cost of other factors such as insurance and maintenace, Skylark estimates that the average cost of a flight is $0.94 per hour. Continue reading Drone delivery economics: are Amazon drones economically worth it?

Volunteers are using drones to monitor the impacts of El Nino on California’s coastline

As El Nino hits California, drones are heading into the air — documenting the impacts of the rainfall on California’s coastline.

DroneDeploy Orthomosaic Example
Courtesy of Eric Cheng

With El Nino comes surge in storms, coastal flooding and erosion. And the pace of shoreline change is rapidly speeding, meaning that the sea level rise and storms could destroy natural habitats and our own infrastructure. Drones can generate aerial data that documents those changes, allowing scientists to make decisions.

The Nature Conservancy launched a “Phones and Drones” project, giving any  volunteer with a drone the opportunity to help gather data about the coastal impacts of big storm events, with the purposes of improving predictive models and planning responses that protect people and nature. Effectively anyone with a drone can become a citizen scientist. Continue reading Volunteers are using drones to monitor the impacts of El Nino on California’s coastline

Drone delivery is here today: here’s how it works

This is an excerpt of a piece originally published for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire story here.

On Sunday, hours before Cyber Monday, Amazon.com Inc. published a video starring TV host Jeremy Clarkson purporting to be from “the not-too-distant future” that showed how its drones could deliver a child’s soccer shoe within 30 minutes. “In time, there will be a whole family of Amazon drones,” Clarkson intoned.

When companies such as Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s Google X unit talk about drone delivery as the next iteration of consumer retail technology, the response is sometimes a combination of incredulity and skepticism. But it’s already happening in some parts of the world — and there’s nothing magical about it.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup Matternet has been running drone deliveries of medical supplies and specimens in countries around the world, including Switzerland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, since it was founded in 2011.

drone_1_21. Point of departure

A doctor needs to send a blood sample to a lab across the city for testing. Samples would be packed up and taken to a landing pad, possibly on the roof or courtyard of a hospital. Matternet’s landing pads need only a small yard or rooftop of clearance to take off.

Matternet’s drones can hold up to one kilogram (2.2 pounds) and transport items about 10 miles, traveling up to 40 mph, which is about standard for current drone technology. Including lift off and landing, a 10-mile journey should take about 18 minutes.

Read the rest of this story here.

 

FAA releases commercial drone cease and desist letters

The FAA released a series of documents to a man named Patrick McKay in response to his FOIA request for the cease and desist letters that were sent to commercial drone operators.

This site, as well as others including MuckRock.com, has requested the same documentation, and the FAA is more than 7 months overdue in responding to those requests.

It’s unclear why the FAA responding to this particular request at this time.

The documents were posted by the recipient at DIYdrones.com.

“The FAA has finally provided the first set of documents in response to a FOIA request I filed back in April 2013, requesting copies ‘of all records related to investigations and enforcement actions related to alleged violations of regulations, rules, policies, or advisory circulars by operators of unmanned aerial systems,’ McKay wrote. “After months of delays, excuses, and requesting extensions, they have provided copies of 17 cease and desist letters sent by various FAA regional offices to UAS operators in 2012 and 2013.” Continue reading FAA releases commercial drone cease and desist letters

FAA now 7 months overdue on releasing public records, ignoring journalists requests

The FAA is now more than 7 months overdue on responding to requests for documentation regarding drone operators who have received cease and desist letters for commercial drone use.

Journalists at MuckRock.com submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FAA requesting this information, which has been subject to numerous approved extensions. The FAA last requested an extension through Dec. 30, 2013. Since then, the FAA has not responded to MuckRock’s requests.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 3.53.16 PMAbove is the text exchange between MuckRock and the FAA.

Below is the last message from the FAA, in which they ask for an extension.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 3.53.21 PM
Since we have yet to receive public records from the FAA, in the meantime, Drone Girl has created an online Document Tracker to study where and to whom the letters of gone. Check out our document tracker here.

Under FOIA, the FAA is legally obligated to provide the general public with full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased documents, including the ones we requested regarding commercial drone operation cease and desist orders.

Stay with Drone Girl for the latest updates on this information.

Related posts:

Transparency Watch: Why is the FAA 6 months overdue on sharing public information about regulating drone operators?

The FAA has stated that they will release an updated law by Sept. 30, 2015 that would allow commercial drone use. Until then, commercial drone use is illegal.

Numerous drone operators have been issued Cease and Desist letters by the FAA. But it’s unclear exactly who has gotten letters. (All we’re aware of is what we’ve discovered online through forum, blog and web searches.) That’s why TheDroneGirl.com submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FAA, requesting copies of all the letters that have been sent out.

In March of 0f 2013, our friends over at MuckRock.com requested the same thing  and have not received the information they requested.

Thus, the FAA is 6 months overdue on fulfilling their public records request.

Since we have yet to receive public records from the FAA, in the meantime, Drone Girl has created an online Document Tracker to study where and to whom the letters of gone. Check out our document tracker here. Continue reading Transparency Watch: Why is the FAA 6 months overdue on sharing public information about regulating drone operators?

Calling all drone operators who have received cease and desist letters

documenttrackerAre you a drone operator who has received a cease and desist letter? Please get in contact with us, because we want to talk to you!

It is currently illegal to operate a drone for commercial purposes – that is until 2015, a date Congress declared for FAA to allow commercial drone use.

Until then, the FAA has delivered letters to select commercial drone pilots requiring they cease operations. It’s unclear which of the many commercial drone pilots out there have received letters. Some have been told to stop flying and have been to subject to fines for noncompliance. But the majority of commercial drone pilots continue to operate drones with no contact from the FAA. Those pilots include contractors for real estate agents who want fancy ways to demonstrate their properties, filmmakers and more.

Why is this?

We need your help to track down who all the letters have gone to. We’ve put in FOIA requests, to no avail. So our hope is you will send yours directly to us!

Check out our new page that documents all the groups we know of that have received cease and desist letters.