Monday, February 8, 2016

Proposed Freight Delivery System Hits Another Barrier - Drones vs Eagles!

Police Take Natural Selection Into the Robot World
Shipping News Feature
NETHERLANDS – UK – WORLDWIDE – Although as an unbiased news source we try to keep things as objective as possible sometimes a personal view, hopefully fuelled by common sense, bleeds through. A review of articles we have published on the use of drones as a freight delivery system will clearly indicate that in our opinion, as far as an everyday thing is concerned, this one is right up there with airships moored in New York and transhipment of all goods bound for city centres being carried on ‘cargocycles’. The latest tactic to ensure the demise of the drone as a delivery system has however a touch of the Flash Gordon or Lord of the Rings about it – Drones vs Eagles.

Let’s be clear, drones, as well as airships and cycle delivery systems have a place in modern day logistics however, certainly for the first two, it’s a very minor role. Airships may be suitable for carrying heavy equipment to remote areas just as drones may be ideally suited to rush urgent pharmaceuticals and perhaps even transplant organs when speed is of the essence. These however are bespoke tasks and are never likely to become the norm.

Generally we side with the residents of Deer Trail, Arapahoe County, Colorado whose shooting down of passing drones seems also to be approved now by Police in the Netherlands whose studies may prove useful in battling one branch of the logistics business for which the unmanned and untraceable mechanical insects are the perfect solution to a tricky delivery problem. We are talking of course about criminals, particularly drug dealers, who can utilise the small and relatively cheap machines to deliver lightweight but expensive product to customers and employees without putting in an appearance.

This situation exists in many places, the US – Mexican border springs to mind, and the drones can be guided by remote control even from a smart phone, with little or no risk to either consignor or consignee. The Dutch police have decided that birds of prey may have a role when drones are being used in other situations and have launched a training programme with a view to deploying the birds. Smaller hawks are inefficient and at more risk of injury from the multiple whirling propellers so the raptor of choice has proved to be the eagle.

The tests are being conducted in a joint programme between the National Police in cooperation with Guard From Above, a company that trains raptors, and as well as anti-drug use the birds can prevent the unwanted presence of drones in areas where they would endanger safety, as Mark Wiebe from the National Police Unit explains:

"There is a case where an air ambulance would have landed but could not because someone out there flew a drone. You can also imagine that people want to make pictures of an event and have a drone fly above the crowd. If the drone falls from the sky, this can be dangerous."

Press reports state that police elsewhere, including London’s Metropolitan force, are studying the results of the Dutch tests (video viewable here) with an eye on perhaps introducing a similar scheme with the major hurdle remaining the risk to the birds from the machines spinning blades.

As for us we still think eagles flying in Central London may prove to be just pigeon pie in the sky.

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