There has been talk of new methods of delivering packages in the future when more and more people are ordering from online services like Amazon. Amazon has talked about using drones to deliver packages by air, but the challenge is creating a drone with enough power and range to carry packages. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new modular solution to deliver larger packages via drones without requiring a fleet of drones of varying sizes.
The system would allow teams of drones to coordinate to lift heavier packages using an adaptive control algorithm. The system could allow a wide range of packages to be delivered using a combination of several standard-sized drones. The team says while delivery drones of the future would be able to handle packages weighing five pounds or less, heavier packages would still be required to be delivered by conventional trucks and vans.
Utilizing a system that leveraged multiple smaller drones would help alleviate any noise or safety concerns involved in operating larger autonomous drones in populated areas. The team also believes their system could be usable by the military to resupply small groups of soldiers in the field.
Researchers visualize a system with a delivery truck that could carry a dozen drones in the back and use varying configurations of the drones depending on how heavy a particular package was. Researchers say the flexibility of that sort in the weight of packages that could be delivered would eliminate the requirement to build and maintain different sizes of delivery drones.
A centralized computer system would monitor each of the drones lifting a package sharing information about the location and the thrust being provided by their motors. The system would also coordinate and issue commands for navigation and delivery of the package. The drones would autonomously connect to a docking structure attached to a package using an infrared guidance system that would prevent humans from having to attach the drones to the package.
Such a system would also allow for package returns from user’s homes. In testing, the researchers have used four small quadrotor drones to work together to lift the box that is two feet by two feet by two feet, weighing 12 pounds. The system could control as many drones as could be fit around a package.