Author Topic: Drone delivery hype  (Read 4986 times)

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Offline PatrickG

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Drone delivery hype
« on: December 15, 2016, 12:59:41 PM »
Amazon has a real genius in their marketing department. Every year during the prime christmas shopping seasons the company releases a hype video about drone delivery.

The story is picked up world-wide and gives them massive free publicity.

As for drone delivery on itself: I'm skeptical. All videos are low on details and high on editing and scripting. The script doesn't change, details minimal, and progress disappoints.

There are fundamental issues with drone delivery. The main one is that payload and range are very limited because physics is a bitch. And there are countless practical details that make a drone future much less likely than the above hype suggests.

But that probably doesn't matter. The extra on-line christmas sales due to the publicity easily pays for the drone project. Its probably just a few dudes in a garage tinkering on glorified model airplanes.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 01:55:17 PM by PatrickG »

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2016, 01:36:47 PM »
I love the video. Drone delivery will be expensive, and it will be limited to a few miles around the drone-capable warehouses. But my bet is that it is coming. It won't be in Spokane in my lifetime, but certain areas will have it.
Daniel
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Offline PatrickG

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2016, 02:25:32 PM »
Is nobody bothered by this kind of fake tech news? Why does tech BS get a free pass in the skeptical community, while medical BS gets much more scrutiny?

This wasn't an actual delivery customer drone delivery. The videos are shot by advertising professionals using actors and using eye-candy angles. Soothing voice-overs complete the picture and journalists eat it up without fact checking. The entire blurs the lines between wishful thinking and reality. That's pseudoscience.

We still have no clue how close drone delivery is to real deployment. No details of the technical issues are given, nor are investigated by skeptics. The only thing to go is sugar coated marketing hype.

Drone delivery is just like the flying car: a nice fantasy that looks great at first sight, but that has fundamental hidden flaws that never make it come of the ground. Its easy to show some prototypes, but a few side-issues make it very hard to develop into a something that is practical. 
« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 03:01:02 PM by PatrickG »

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2016, 02:53:24 PM »
They should shoot it out of a cannon.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2016, 03:16:29 PM »
I see no reason to doubt that drone delivery will become a thing, in very limited markets and with a reduced list of available products: The product must be small enough for the drone to carry, and it must be in stock at the local warehouse, which must be close enough to the customer. And the customer needs to have a place for the drone to land. Drone delivery will be available to very few people, but I think that in the ubiquitous 5 or 10 years they will be offering it in those limited circumstances.
Daniel
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“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
-- Greta Thunberg

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2016, 03:26:14 PM »
P.S. Maybe the reason there is so little concern in skeptical circles is that the present hype about drone delivery does not harm anyone, the way that fake medicine does. Nobody is going to die because they've decided to wait until drone delivery becomes available before ordering their heart medication. Nobody is going to give their life savings to a "psychic" because they saw a promo video from Amazon about drone delivery.

I think drone delivery is much more likely to become a reality than is a self-sustaining Mars colony, yet many skeptics believe the latter will one day be built. In fact, we often hear news stories on the SGU about some new advance that brings some new technology a little closer, and the only skeptical response is that we need more progress before it happens. Not a lot of people are going to get very worked up over Amazon's promotions of future technology.
Daniel
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“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
-- Greta Thunberg

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2016, 03:27:40 PM »
I'm not sure why you're so angry about this.  Amazon is clearly investing quite a bit of money in this, they've designed the drones, built facilities and a web infrastructure to support it, and they're actually running a pilot test.  Maybe nothing comes of it, but I don't think it's all smoke and mirrors.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline Shibboleth

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2016, 03:37:55 PM »
Even if someone was just doing it for exposure it would not bother me much.
common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Offline PatrickG

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2016, 07:09:41 PM »
I'm not sure why you're so angry about this.  Amazon is clearly investing quite a bit of money in this, they've designed the drones, built facilities and a web infrastructure to support it, and they're actually running a pilot test.  Maybe nothing comes of it, but I don't think it's all smoke and mirrors.

I also wonder why this bothers me, but so few others. Here is my attempt:

I suspect its 80% smoke and mirrors, and 20% real development. There is no tangible hard information about the Amazon drones, nor about the team size that works on it. In every video the drones are different. The movies are obviously entirely staged.  Sure, there are competitive reasons not to give detail, but there is nothing technical we have learned until now. I have found no conference paper, no public industry-university project, no credible info other that some carefully staged interviews. I have no doubt that a hand full of people are working on this at Amazon, and that they build some drones and tinker with the infrastructure around it. And there are a whopping 2 people in the pilot project. That is a few million bucks investment, which easily pays for itself because the hype is used a a free advertising vehicle. But it is not nearly as it it suggested. I would be happy to be proven wrong. As a model airplane enthusiast and hardcore engineer I am dying to learn details!

Future applications of delivery drones will at best be very limited, but the general public gets the impression that its almost there thanks to this fake news where. How will they distinguish that from self-driving cars that are real? The difference is that there is abundant academic literature on self-driving cars, there are conferences on the topic and I see the google car driving on the road. Not so for these delivery drones.

What is the harm? It is just entertainment and perhaps it will just work out? Just like our political climate is polluted by fake news, so is the understanding of technology by the general public. People will believe that solar roads are real, and they believe the drone delivery , and soon flying cars...  We move to a post-fact world otherwise.

I think this tech-trickery is on par with many classic skeptical hot-buttons. The main harm of homeopathy is not the health risk. Its that people waste limited money, time and resources on misguided stuff made by marketing spinmasters instead of engineers.  Homeopathy is really not that different with fake tech such as this or Elon Musks' hyperloop. It all seems to demonstrate well at first sight, but fails miserably in practice.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 07:18:06 PM by PatrickG »

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2016, 08:43:20 PM »
Sorry, I disagree with just about everything you've said there.  *shrug*
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline Nemmzy

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2016, 08:40:08 AM »
I think it is brilliant marketing. I also think it will be a "thing" eventually but will be a premium service (and a form of conspicuous consumption) for those who live near Amazon warehouse hubs. At the end of the day having the UPS guy drop off my packages is fairly efficient and affordable. But, I can totally see my uncle in law paying extra for something like this and trying to get it delivered when other people can see it. The dude also owns a Bentley which he spends an absorbent amount of time polishing.

Offline kvuo75

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2016, 06:25:09 AM »
i tend to agree with patrickg here.

my problem with these types of aircraft is they dont fly if theres a failure..

airplanes and helicopters can at least land if theres something like an engine failure. these dont. they are completely reliant on continuous thrust.

the first time they lose that you have a 20+ lb (?) projectile falling from the sky uncontrolled..

for what gain? so someone can buy a pack of gum without getting off their ass?


Offline Redamare

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2016, 06:57:51 AM »
I have no idea how plausible this service is,  but there's nothing inherently suspicious about the advertisement. You don't bore people with technical details and evidence, you just show them a slick demonstration. That's what I would expect if it was ten years away or ten days. (Except for the bulldog. They are ugly, disgusting creatures, and I resent being made to look upon one.)
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Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2016, 07:34:20 AM »
i tend to agree with patrickg here.

my problem with these types of aircraft is they dont fly if theres a failure..

airplanes and helicopters can at least land if theres something like an engine failure. these dont. they are completely reliant on continuous thrust.

the first time they lose that you have a 20+ lb (?) projectile falling from the sky uncontrolled..

for what gain? so someone can buy a pack of gum without getting off their ass?

I have received numerous crushed parcels in my life.  Any bypass of the drop-kicked-into-a-truck phase of things'd be amazing. 
... in war the screams are loud and harsh and in peace the wail is so drawn-out we tell ourselves we hear nothing.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Drone delivery hype
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2016, 08:12:01 AM »
i tend to agree with patrickg here.

my problem with these types of aircraft is they dont fly if theres a failure..

airplanes and helicopters can at least land if theres something like an engine failure. these dont. they are completely reliant on continuous thrust.

the first time they lose that you have a 20+ lb (?) projectile falling from the sky uncontrolled..

for what gain? so someone can buy a pack of gum without getting off their ass?

Patrick seems to be arguing that Amazon is advertising a fake service to hype its image. You seem to be arguing that drones are a bad idea due to safety concerns. As for things falling out of the sky, my understanding is that an 8-rotor drone can still fly even if a couple of its motors fail. I suspect that once the technology matures, the drones will be safer than trucks on city streets. Those can crash also, or run down pedestrians.

Clearly, as I and others have already said, drones will be a niche delivery service, providing a very limited product list to a very limited number of customers for a high price. The biggest threat to the success of drone delivery is merely that it will be such a small market that it might not be able to support itself financially.
Daniel
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“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
-- Greta Thunberg