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General Discussion / Re: Drone delivery hype
« Last post by Caffiene on Today at 06:24:33 PM »
I obviously don't know the full answer, but I strongly suspect it is combination of any of the following engineering and practical issues:
  • Reliability in less than ideal weather. Drones are light so easily tossed around in the wind. And does it work at night, or in the rain when the cameras don't see so well? In many poor-weather markets that means having to say 'sorry' quite often.
  • Obstacle avoidance. People, cars, flag poles, Power lines and trees near customers homes need to be reliably mapped or dynamically spotted using on-board sensors. This is challenging: fully autonomous requires more sensors.
  • Basic reliability: how many fail to find a safe landing site? How many drones crash due to mechanical failure. How many will still fly into trees or power lines? The success rate needs to be way above 99%, and that is not what current drones have.
  • Range and endurance. Physics is a bitch: Energy demand is high and the drone needs to fly round-trip, resulting in a range of ~10 miles tops. Larger battery means more weight, so its a catch-22. 
  • A huge investment in a fine-grain drone airbases and warehouse infrastructure to serve relatively few people in suburban settings. This also means that only a few popular products are in stock for drone delivery.
  • Limited payload weight and size reduce practicality. Drones can deliver an Echo Dot, but not a regular amazon Echo. Pizza boxes are too large. If the drones get heavy, the possibility of people getting killed goes up significantly.
  • Limited products. How many high-volume, small, low-weight, sub-$100 products exists that you need to be delivered in less than 1 hour?  Likely answer: Too few to make it feasible.
  • Cost of drones and infrastructure, inevitable losses, worn-out batteries, maintenance crew. This likely makes the delivery costs of a $40 Echo Dot higher than the value of the product.
  • Other practical stuff: Is this only for suburbanites that have a garden? What do customers do to prep the landing site? How would you sign for delivery higher value products?
  • Limited gain vs a conventional delivery van, even if all of this works. Amazon already does same-day delivery for many goods already. So all this trouble to go from 6 hours to 1 hour? And if there is really a need for such very fast delivery, why not employ delivery boys just like pizza places do? They have a bigger range, can deliver anywhere anytime and can deliver much heavier packets. Domino's can do it in 30 minutes!

Some of the above might be solved, but any of the above is a potential show-stopper. And it makes even most niche application really unlikely

I dont particularly disagree with any of the above. Obviously the technology isnt already perfectly solved or we wouldnt be having this discussion because Amazon would already have their drone fleet.

On the other hand, I dont agree that "any of the above" are show stoppers. Youve got a lot of points in there that are about practicality and market, not about technical feasibility. The fact that it would be a limited range of products or benefits over a conventional delivery etc arent indications that Amazon cant deliver, they are just caveats that Amazon may have to loss-lead or to rely on the cool factor of drones rather than immediately having a useful and profitable product. To me, a drone delivery service that runs at a loss and is offset by the advertising value doesnt count as some form of "quackery" so long as the drone delivery is an available service that does what it says.

The weather reliability and small obstacle avoidance are genuine issues. Thats an engineering and software problem. Im just not confident that some combination of development and re-defining the use case cant overcome the issues. There are issues, I just wouldnt go anywhere near saying there are issues so great that claiming to be able to fix them is quackery.
Podcast Episodes / Re: Episode #600
« Last post by daniel1948 on Today at 06:19:42 PM »
"Small radios never violated the laws of physics."

They certainly did. To someone in 1802 a hand held device for long distance communication was fantasy powered by magic. There was no scientific foundation for radio.

There was no scientific foundation for it, but there were also no established laws of physics that said it was impossible, the way relativity clearly states that nothing, not even information, can travel faster than light.
TV & Movies / Re: Rate the last movie you just saw.
« Last post by Simon Jester on Today at 06:11:27 PM »
Yesterday I watched The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980): I hadn't seen this before, but certainly heard about it. It was certainly entertaining, in a noble-savage-does-his-thing-while-others-engage-in-sped-up-slapstick kind of way. I was a little disappointed that Xi was only such a small part of the movie, since he's the one everybody talks about. 7/10.

I loved that movie. I'd give it a 10/10.

Not everyone agrees but I like the second one just as much.  There is an anecdote that I don't know is true or not.

Supposedly they paid that guy a small amount of cash that would be ridiculous for a normal actor.  After the film made some money they went back to make number two and offered him some more. He ran back to his home and gave them the money they originally paid him and said he still had it and didn't know what to do with it. They ended up drilling a water well for the tribe that was deep enough to supply water for a long time.

Again I don't know if it's true or if my story is exact but that is what I heard.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
General Discussion / Re: Drone delivery hype
« Last post by daniel1948 on Today at 06:10:59 PM »
^ Some very good points there.

1. Weather. I agree, this will limit deliveries.

2. Obstacles. I disagree. I think this will be solved with the same technology as autonomous cars.

3. Reliability. I think they'll be able to make them extremely reliable.

4. Range and Endurance. I agree. This limits the possible customer base to a fairly small area around the fulfillment centers.

5. Investment. Yes and no. Very big investment, but Amazon has a lot of money.

6. & 7. Limits to weight, size, and availability of products at a local fulfillment center. I agree. There will be relatively few products available to any given customer, based on location.

8. Cost. Not sure. This will further limit the potential customer base. Not only must the customer be close enough to a fulfillment center, but also must be willing to pay the premium.

9. Not really a problem. You put out a marker, and since the item goes directly from Amazon to you, and is never handled by a third party, they'd probably forgo a signature. And they'd have documentation that the item was delivered where requested. Maybe there'd be an upper limit on the value of the products, which will be moot, given there's already a size and weight limit.

10. Maybe your best point of all. A kid on a bike might be cheaper. But Amazon clearly thinks the drone is cheaper. The drone need not be paid for time sitting waiting for a delivery. But they need enough drones to meet the demand for simultaneous orders.

Clearly drones would fit a very small service niche: Products available at a given center, for delivery only to a customers within a very small area at a high premium price. But some people do pay more for delivery than the value of an item when they want it right away.

I don't know whether I think drones will ever be economically feasible on more than a very small scale. But I do not believe that Amazon is making false claims. I believe they honestly intend to build and use them where people are willing to pay for the service.
Forum Games / Re: Fact or Crap? 2017 Edition
« Last post by Tassie Dave on Today at 06:02:35 PM »
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Forum Games / Re: Fact or Crap? 2017 Edition
« Last post by Bo├čel on Today at 05:49:46 PM »
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I'm going to name my next character in an MMO game "Crankish Woo".
TV & Movies / Re: Rate the last movie you just saw.
« Last post by daniel1948 on Today at 05:45:46 PM »
Yesterday I watched The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980): I hadn't seen this before, but certainly heard about it. It was certainly entertaining, in a noble-savage-does-his-thing-while-others-engage-in-sped-up-slapstick kind of way. I was a little disappointed that Xi was only such a small part of the movie, since he's the one everybody talks about. 7/10.

I loved that movie. I'd give it a 10/10.
General Discussion / Re: The military of the SGU forum
« Last post by Friendly Angel on Today at 05:45:19 PM »
I had done 2-years of college when the Navy recruiter called.  He took me out for beer and pool and he had a guy back from boot camp to tell me what it was like. 

First the recruiter told me I could be a warrant officer helicopter pilot - that sounded pretty cool.  I probably would've flunked the vision test though.

I was a foreign language major and I told him I might want to be a spy.   He gave me the DLAB, and he said I got the highest score he'd ever seen (could've been true!).

He said I did so well, that I should take the nuclear power test.  Showed me the ad in the Navy Times for nuke plants wanting to hire ex-nukes as soon as they got out.  Advertised salaries were way higher than for foreign language teachers.  I did well enough and I signed the papers and thought I'd have a civilian career in nuclear power.

Before I went to boot camp, the movie The China Syndrome was released.  Death knell #1 for the US nuclear power industry.

Two weeks later, Three Mile Island happened.  Death knell #2.

When I got out and went to college for a ME degree, Chernobyl happened.  Death knell #3.

Now I work in sewage treatment... and I like it.
Skepticism / Science Talk / Re: Question about Fermi Paradox
« Last post by daniel1948 on Today at 05:42:01 PM »
I think we make a lot of assumptions about the psyche of hypothetical intelligent species. We tend to assume that since humans have traits A,B,C and D, that any other species that has trait A also has B,C, and D.

While it seems almost certain that we are the first and only species to evolve on this planet with advanced technology we have no idea whether we are the smartest. It is entirely possible that a species far more intelligent than us evolved at some point in the past, but had no need for technology and so never developed it, thus leaving no trace of their society. I won't say civilization, as that requires cities, and they obviously didn't build those. This hypothetical super smart species would have had no use for cities (let alone space ships).

Humans specifically evolved as persistence hunters; Along with our powerful thermo-regulation abilities we have a genetically ingrained tenacity. We see something we want and we don't give up on it; we pursue it, walking it down until it has a heatstroke and dies. There is no reason to believe that this kind of tenacity has anything to do with intelligence or tool using, and yet without it how advanced would our civilization be? This focus on future goals, and dedication to achieving them, was only strengthened by the agricultural revolution - we had to think about what would happen over the next several months rather than just the next few hours. This is a huge leap. Again, a species could be just as intelligent as us and just as good at making and using tools, but without those selective pressures they might remain largely trapped in the "simple present." Even if they are cognitively capable of imagining the world of a few hours or months or years in the future, there is no reason to assume that they would care.

IMO the fermi paradox formula is missing variables. There are things we just assume are part of being intelligent tool users because they are qualities that we have - qualities without which it is unlikely a species would ever leave the gravity well of it's home planet.

Excellent points.

FWIW, I recall once reading that dolphins are more intelligent than humans, but lacking opposable thumbs they are incapable of making tools. I don't know whether this notion was generally accepted, or just a hippie tree-hugger fringe idea. If it was widely accepted, I don't know if it still is. Intelligence leads to technology only if physiology lends itself to the fine manipulation of tools.
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