Look up in the sky; it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a drone and it’s dropping books.
According to CNN.com, Zookal, an Australian textbook rental service, plans to begin employing drones to deliver books to students in Australia in 2014. Zookal intends to expand the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to customers in the United States in 2015.
Zookal has partnered with software company, Vimbra, to form Flirtey, the company that will manufacture six drones that will be used to start the alternative delivery method in Sydney, Australia. The current drone models are powered by rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, can travel a distance of almost two miles and carry packages weighing up to four pounds.
Deliveries will be free and customers will have the ability to control the entire transaction through Flirtey’s Android smartphone app. Apps for other smartphone platforms are in development and will be released closer to the official launch of the service.
Customers will choose the drop off location and the drone will use GPS coordinates to calculate a preferred flight route. Once an exact location and route have been determined, the drone will take off.
Customers will be able to track the location of the drone with their smartphone and proceed to the drop-off location once the drone is in close proximity. One press of the “Lower package” button on the app and the drone lowers its position closer to the customer.
Based on of the location of the smartphone, the drone will safely hover over the customer. Once the customer utilizes the drone’s lowering cord, the package of books will drop without causing any damage or interrupting the drone’s flight power.
Zookal claims deliveries will be completed in two to three minutes and the drones will immediately return to headquarters after the job is done.
As safety precautions, the drones are equipped with custom designed anti-collision technology that will ideally steer them clear of any buildings, birds and aircrafts. Zookal and Flirtey stated that the drones will not be equipped with any surveillance or camera software.
There are many possible advantages and conveniences offered to customers with this new drone fleet; however there are still obstacles to overcome, chief among them is a lack of weather proofing on the current drone prototypes.
“Flirteys currently operate in summer weather, which is one reason that Sydney is a great city to pilot the technology,” said Vimbra CEO Matthew Sweeny. “Flirtey is working on weather proofing our UAVs for all conditions, rain, hail or shine.”
In the meantime, Flirtey is in the process of gaining regulatory approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
“As one of the few countries in the world to allow commercial drone activities, Australia is uniquely placed to create a new drone industry and shape the development of regulations in this space,” said Zookal CEO Ahmed Haider.
A test flight is scheduled to take place in November at the University of Sydney. If the simulation is successful, Zookal anticipates drone textbook deliveries to begin as early as March 2014.