Makers as a Drone Landing Tool

Drone delivery isn't ready to take off, because its not ready to touch down

In our post on location markers, we learned what exactly a location maker is. But do these marker mats offer a pragmatic, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly solution?

 

Accessibility

The possibility of drone delivery to an office, home, or any desired location extends flexibility and convenience to customers opposed to the traditional method of delivering goods, grocery items, and medications. Some customers may not have the space to lay out a 3′ x 3′ marker mat in their yard, if they even have one. This excludes high-density places like large cities and apartment complexes. Even customers with yards may also not have access to drone delivery services due to the restrictions on where marker mats can be placed. Most yards have trees, shrubbery, and lawn decorations that can cover or alter the drone’s sight of the marker mat- halting the delivery and wasting the customer and aggregator time and money for a failed flight. Connecting emergency services with a request for life saving products from a first responder or providing a cool drink to a jogger in the park after a long run are just a couple examples of missions that drones will be expected to complete accurately millions of times per hour, every day. We can’t expect markers to be on hand for every on-demand scenario.

Environmental Setbacks

 

The vulnerability of these markers against environmental factors extends further than the parameters of location. Exposure to sunlight and the sun-bleaching of the unique marker may deem the marker useless as identification becomes impossible.Glares, rain, snow, and other weather conditions can prevent the drone from identifying the marker via computer vision if the marker is obstructed. Most importantly, a lack of light may make the unique marker completely invisible to a drone attempting to make a touchdown. These markers, prone to weather and other environmental challenges, are essentially trapped in their shortcomings. The best solution for drone landing isn’t one where deliveries, sometimes of vital goods, are restricted by that day’s weather or what time it is. 

Drone landing marker fading from environmental factors

Potential Effects on the Environment

In order to keep markers in place and resilient to weather, which substances will be used to make them sturdy and long lasting? Will markers become the styrofoam and plastic water bottle problem our environment is littered with today? Suggesting biodegradable materials seems like the perfect fix. But as mats break down, the demand for more manufacturing and delivering outweighs the benefits of a biodegradable marker. It’s thought that marker mats will be delivered to the customer by fossil-fuel burning cars or trucks. This earth-first initiative to erase the pollution caused by deliveries shouldn’t begin with pollution, considering the need for at least a single visit to every household and office in the country to deploy a marker.

Aesthetically, a 3′ x 3′ foot marker covering a substantial portion of one’s yard will not only serve as an eye-sore, but once removed, it may leave an identical 3X3 foot patch of dead grass in its wake. When considering the weight and security of location marker mats, the familiar idea of man-made materials flying off in the wind and into waterways, forests, and bodies of water comes to mind. If we want drones to truly adhere to environmentally friendly delivery practices, we need to minimize the possibility of creating additional potential waste. 

 

Safety and Security

Since these location markers would have to be substantially large enough for a drone to see from an aerial view, the chance of a drone-averse neighbor or porch pirate to see where a customer’s packages are being delivered is high. A physical marker could give thieves a clear location to have a stakeout, ransacking drones and their packages upon arrival. Although some insurance policies cover stolen packages, deductibles and fees make filing a claim over a $25 item a tiring and fruitless experience. For the more enterprising package thieves, access to these uniquely coded and printed location markers provide duplication opportunities. Counterfeit location markers may confuse incoming delivery drones, halting the shipment, costing not only the delivery aggregator operating costs, but also their customers’ time and trust.

No Possibilities for Multiple Packages


Reliance on location markers for the last step of delivery navigation prevents the possibility of multiple parcels arriving at the same marker. A successful delivery on an initial parcel will create a situation in which the marker can’t be identified by a second delivery drone due to the marker being visually obstructed. In this case, with an initial parcel obscuring the marker, the result will be a wasted trip and aborted delivery at the operator or customer’s expense. How can the operator know whether the marker was actually placed before delivery is launched? There could be a second marker perhaps, but we should not approach a single marker problem with an answer of “more markers”.  

 

Overall, markers have been a huge benefit during the initial testing of commercializing drones. However, location marker mats suggest a more complex issue under the surface. In order to launch and maintain a program of this degree, contemplate the approach and landing methods to shape a reliable, universally adaptable, and pragmatic resource for the decade to come. 


PORTLAND, OR, USA 

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