Amazon is proposing that a section of the airspace above cities and suburbs should be set aside for the deployment of high-speed aerial drones capable of flying robotically with virtually no human interference.
The eCommerce company aspires to deliver packages via drone within 30 minutes . It envisages that within the next 10 years, drones will conquer the sky across cities and countries.
The company’s aeronautics experts propose that a 200ft slab of air located between 200ft and 400ft from the ground should be segregated and reserved for state-of-the-art drones equipped with sophisticated communications and sensing equipment and flying at high speeds of 60 knots or more. A further 100ft of airspace between 400ft and 500ft would be declared a no-fly zone to act as a buffer between the drones and current conventional aircraft such as passenger and cargo planes, thus mitigating fears about the impact on manned flight or dangers posed to people on the ground.
Amazon revealed its plan at Nasa UTM Convention at Nasa Ames in California. At the nub of the proposal is the idea that access to the new 200ft slice of airspace would only be granted to those drones equipped with technology that allowed them to fly safely and autonomously.
Gur Kimchi,VP and Co-founder of Amazon’s delivery-by-drone project, Prime Air, asserted, “The way we guarantee the greatest safety is by requiring that as the level of complexity of the airspace increases, so does the level of sophistication of the vehicle.” He added, “Under our proposal everybody has to be collaborative vehicles must be able to talk to each other and avoid each other as the airspace gets denser at low altitudes.”
Amazon sets out five capabilities that drones must meet if they are to be allowed to fly inside the new 200ft high-speed corridor. They must have:
- Sophisticated GPS tracking that allows them to pinpoint their location in real-time and in relation to all other drones around them.
- A reliable internet connection onboard that allows them to maintain real-time GPS data and awareness of other drones and obstacles.
- Online flight planning that allows them to predict and communicate their flight path.
- Communications equipment that allow them to “talk” and collaborate with other drones in the zone to ensure they avoid each other.
- Sensor-based sense-and-avoid equipment that allows the drones to bypass all other drones and obstacles such as birds, buildings or electric cables.
As per the Guardian, under this scenario, drones would take to the skies with virtually no human interaction at all. “We aim to have high levels of safe automation so that the only time intervention is needed is in emergency situations, national security crises and the like,” said Kimchi.