Skip to main content

Commercial Drone future, why the skies will not fall.

So the other day a few Luddites opined in one of my Facebook threads that they felt that the upcoming drone revolution would not be practical in cities. This short video shows exactly why they are wrong:

As a technologist who has built complex distributed system I had to chuckle at the doubts being described. People who don't work in technology have no clue of the large reduction of complexity and errors that attends having a good design. Consider the internet we are using...designed to ensure that our communications find their way to the desired destination...even with constant breaks in the communication channel across the internet...magic ? No, good design, expected packet loss and routing via  tcp/ip , udp at the low level through routers and switches and what seems like a hopeless problem is routinely done trillions of time per second across the whole globe.

The video above demonstrates in a few seconds why those Luddites are wrong, consider first that planes today are mostly human driven still...and thus prone to the machinations of humans as well as their errors. Then consider the incredible density of flights...over a short 7 hour span with zero failures.

Now make them all robots and you can get even more dense while not increasing the failure rate at all since unless a systemic problem asserts (a nightmare scenario Luddites like to mention with no real reason to assert it other than playing "what if") they'll just continue to fly getting from place to place...just like the packets being routed variably around the internet to convey this message to you. Now the analogy is not exact since the internet in fact does factor in "dropped" packets and a real route system can't exactly do that since material costs are finite unlike information being transmitted electronically which can be regenerated if it doesn't reach it's destination but good design will virtually eliminate the equivalent of "dropped" packets in dense areas.


I've explained variably in my responses to these Luddites but here's the meat of it.

1) Once Commercial Drones are given multiple ways to sense their environments (Intel is releasing a chip set that allows cheap 3D sensing of environments) they'll be easy to build so that they can fly autonomously and engage natural collision avoidance heuristics.

2) Once enabled with communication radios they can provide predictive data to nearby drones allowing yet another reduction in the possibility of collisions by adjusting courses from further off to avoid them...even while navigating in close proximity to near by drones.

3) Drones should be designed with redundant rotors...taking out a rotor on a drone should not make it catastrophically fail (fall from the sky). Good design will assume a rotor can die at any time and the drone can then initiate an emergency redirect to ground, ideally at known land zones for drones that experience such failures.

4) Drone rotor power in my design would be independent, if using a battery the battery system would take 4 independent cells, each feeding independent circuits to the rotors and thus preventing a catastrophic failure of any one battery from bringing down the entire drone.

5) Delivery logistics to final destinations in apartment buildings will be handled by simply having packages delivered to the roof of such buildings or designated delivery platforms placed out side windows or common areas for buildings. Surveillance cameras will continue to be widely deployed and will be far smarter than today, so fears of theft are again more fear than fact.

:All of these are base constraints that the lucky engineers working on building commercial drone delivery at Amazon and other companies would be wise to put into practice if they are to avoid the Luddite fears of drones falling from the sky mentioned above.

Looking at this chart of humans driving air planes over a 7 hour period and considering the difference in susceptibility to errors that automated systems are compared to humans..makes it pretty clear to me that these folks are wrong.

I made a wager that 10 years from now we'll see a large US city with some level of commercial drone deliveries happening. I stand by that statement.


Popular posts from this blog

Highly targeted Cpg vaccine immunotherapy for a range of cancer


This will surely go down as a seminal advance in cancer therapy. It reads like magic:

So this new approach looks for the specific proteins that are associated with a given tumors resistance to attack by the body's T cells, it then adjusts those T cells to be hyper sensitive to the specific oncogenic proteins targeted. These cells become essentially The Terminator​ T cells in the specific tumor AND have the multiplied effect of traveling along the immune pathway of spreading that the cancer many have metastasized. This is huge squared because it means you can essentially use targeting one tumor to identify and eliminate distal tumors that you many not even realize exist.

This allows the therapy for treating cancer to, for the first time; end the "wack a mole" problem that has frustrated traditional shot gun methods of treatment involving radiation and chemotherapy ...which by their nature unfortunately damage parts of the body that are not cancer laden but …

Engineers versus Programmers

I have found as more non formally trained people enter the coding space, the quality of code that results varies in an interesting way.

The formalities of learning to code in a structured course at University involve often strong focus on "correctness" and efficiency in the form of big O representations for the algorithms created.

Much less focus tends to be placed on what I'll call practical programming, which is the type of code that engineers (note I didn't use "programmers" on purpose) must learn to write.

Programmers are what Universities create, students that can take a defined development environment and within in write an algorithm for computing some sequence or traversing a tree or encoding and decoding a string. Efficiency and invariant rules are guiding development missions. Execution time for creating the solution is often a week or more depending on the professor and their style of teaching code and giving out problems. This type of coding is devo…

First *extra Galactic* planetary scale bodies observed

This headline

So every so often I see a story that has me sitting at the keyboard for a few seconds...actually trying to make sure the story is not some kind of satire site because the headline reads immediately a nonsense.
This headline did just that.
So I proceeded to frantically click through and it appears it was a valid news item from a valid news source and my jaw hit the floor.
Many of you know that we've been finding new planets outside of our solar system for about 25 years now.
In fact the Kepler satellite and other ground observatories have been accelerating their rate of extra-solar planet discoveries in the last few years but those planets are all within our galaxy the Milky Way.
The three major methods used to detect the bulk of planets thus far are wobble detection, radial transit and this method micro lensing which relies on a gravitational effect that was predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity exactly 103 years ago.