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General Discussions => General Discussion => Topic started by: PatrickG on December 15, 2016, 12:59:41 PM

Title: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG 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. 
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Shibboleth on December 15, 2016, 02:53:24 PM
They should shoot it out of a cannon.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Shibboleth on December 15, 2016, 03:37:55 PM
Even if someone was just doing it for exposure it would not bother me much.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on December 15, 2016, 08:43:20 PM
Sorry, I disagree with just about everything you've said there.  *shrug*
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Nemmzy 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: kvuo75 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?

Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Redamare 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.)
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Soldier of FORTRAN 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. 
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on December 17, 2016, 04:46:58 PM
I've worked both in a warehouse shipping department and in phone orders/customer service.  I have first hand experience that tells me people will pay a huge premium—even 10 times the value of the item being shipped—to get the item when they need it.  Sure, for most purchases drone delivery will be overkill.  But then, so is overnight delivery and that doesn't seem to be going anywhere as a premium shipping option that people presumably pay for.  I don't see any prima facie reason to think this is the kind of hoax PatrikG seems to think it is.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: kvuo75 on December 17, 2016, 08:06:15 PM
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.

i am less concerned with the parcel itself than the damage that large of an aircraft crashing into someone or something could do.   that said..  i concede it is probably entirely unlikely even if one of them was falling out of the sky every day it would actually hit a person or a car on a highway, etc.  (just like pretty much nobody's ever been hit by a meteorite)

that is, until there are hundreds/thousands of these drones zipping around a city all day long..


Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: arthwollipot on December 18, 2016, 02:21:16 AM
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/drone-stunt-snag-cold-hard-reality-for-man-behind-bunnings-banger-breach-20161109-gslxna.html
Title: Drone hype reaches new heights with vlogger's video
Post by: PatrickG on December 22, 2016, 12:37:25 PM
Some youtube vlogger released a viral video that appears to show him being lifted in the air by a large drone in some ski resort:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At3xcj-pTjg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At3xcj-pTjg)

It is a very slick production, and good viral marketing for Samsung (called 'friends' in the post-reality world we live in).

I think the movie is a clever hoax: smoke, mirrors and digital trickery. The physics doesn't add up to safely pull up a person using battery power. The prop wash is too small for the required thrust, and there are cuts at critical moments to allow for trickery. The lawyers at Samsung would now allow its users to take the risk of flying under an experimental aircraft, and to fly it next to people in a city street.
 
The maker preemptively released a carefully edited and produced 'no, this is really not a hoax video':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyUrqZBs2XA

At this time it has not been debunked yet on the internet. I'm waiting for it.  Here is a quick attempt:

Facts mentioned: 165 lbs drone, 10 feed diameter, 16 rotors on 8 arms.
supposed lifts 200lbs payload (person+rigging) for total of 365 lbs.

The dude mentions 4000 Amp of current. So that would be 250 amp for each of the 16 motors.
250 Amps requires a 4-Gauge wire to conduct, which has a diameter of 0,46" (about a centimeter) of copper wire, which seems way large.

But current Amps is not power. Voltage * Amps is. Voltage wasn't mentioned, but lets assume its the same as the DJI drones its 15V.
That would put the system power at 250 amps @ 15V = 3700Watt per motor for whopping 60,000Watt total.

I have no doubt that there was a large drone, and that that drone is able to lift a prop doll. But it is more than likely that the dude was not lifted into the air by it. 

Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on December 22, 2016, 06:51:47 PM
I believe it. I think Samsung could do it, and I think it would really come back to bite them on the ass if they faked it. My biggest concern at first was the way he was hanging by one hand. But the second video explains that he was in a harness and had a wire holding him on. So I think it's real.

Thanks for posting. Pretty cool.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on December 22, 2016, 09:13:17 PM
4000 amps is the total available amperage in the battery system, not the current draw in use.

I don't see anything particularly improbable about it.  He gives a total power output of 81 kW, meaning that they had 16 5kW motors.  That should be plenty to lift 365 lb.  As for power, there's no reason to think that the electrical system is 15V; indeed, I would imagine that they would invert it and step it up to 240V.  AC motors are far more efficient anyway.  And, voila: the wires running to each motor only need to be 12 gauge.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Redamare on December 23, 2016, 12:10:15 AM
Very nicely said, Lat. I had no idea you were a spark chaser.
Title: Drone flying debunk
Post by: PatrickG on December 23, 2016, 12:24:17 PM
There are many direct and indirect indications its fake. Check out the shot starting at 2:56 when he is supposedly flying suspended under the drone:

https://youtu.be/At3xcj-pTjg?t=2m54s (https://youtu.be/At3xcj-pTjg?t=2m54s)

A lot of things are wrong or suspicious here:
That some vlogger dude on the internet is the first one to safely fly under a drone is just not very likely. It is much more likely that good video production with CGI did the trick. This is fake news in order to get clicks.

It is not the first time that the world uncritically accepted human flying hoaxes. Remember this one?:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYW5G2kbrKk  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYW5G2kbrKk)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/weirdnewsvideo/9157973/Dutch-engineer-admits-hoax-after-human-bird-wings-flying-video-goes-viral.html (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/weirdnewsvideo/9157973/Dutch-engineer-admits-hoax-after-human-bird-wings-flying-video-goes-viral.html)

That was made by an industrial design student and his buddies on a shoestring budget on his home computer. Imagine what a big budget commercial production like this drone-hoax can do with sponsor money and money made from click-bait.

Guys! we are skeptics with a relentless hunger for truths, even if its an inconvenient one.
People believe in homeopathy because it sounds somehow plausible and they want it to be true.
And now skeptics believe in this superficially plausible act, just because it is cool and we all want it to be true.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on December 23, 2016, 02:27:26 PM
What makes you think that Samsung would allow their name to be attached to a fake drone video, or that they would make a fake drone video when they are certainly capable of building a big drone if they wanted to?

I say the video is real.

Your arguments do not convince me. To name one point: You complain that his arm is obviously not carrying his body weight. But the second video you posted on Dec 22 explains that every time he was flying, he was wearing a harness and the weight was supported by a wire. So his arm is not supporting his weight. (Thanks for posting that one, BTW, since it explains a lot and is fascinating.)

As for the direction of the backwash, backwash is turbulent. The clothing will never go in the direction you expect. And I think he said that there were multiple shots. Multiple shots does not mean he wasn't flying.

The videos are real. (Though he does explain, for example, that when he appears to ski up a slope and take off from the top, he's actually being flown just above the slope to avoid the pendulum effect that would result from actually being towed up the slope and off the top.)
Title: Re: Drone flying debunk
Post by: Captain Video on December 23, 2016, 03:46:50 PM
There are many direct and indirect indications its fake. Check out the shot starting at 2:56 when he is supposedly flying suspended under the drone:

https://youtu.be/At3xcj-pTjg?t=2m54s (https://youtu.be/At3xcj-pTjg?t=2m54s)

A lot of things are wrong or suspicious here:
  • The downwash from the propellors carrying 370lb is huge!. So Casey's santa suit with the furry accents and open hat should be flapping firmly downwards. Instead, it flaps leisurely sideways, and Casey's signature wild hair is unaffected.
  • It is clearly a combination of several shots and flights at different locations, made to look like single flight.
  • The flying shots are all very short, with lots of cuts allowing for trickery. No shots sho a continuous flight.
  • And at 2:59 the prop doll conveniently disappears behind a white out-of-focus foreground object. That was likely edited in afterwards. Why was the landing not visible?
  • The doll's angled elbow-position shows that the arm is not carrying a 170lbs body weight. Anyone dangling like that would have stretched arms. The second wire would be a body harness to support the weight. But body harnesses are always attached to the back and would be in the way to sustain such pose.
That some vlogger dude on the internet is the first one to safely fly under a drone is just not very likely. It is much more likely that good video production with CGI did the trick. This is fake news in order to get clicks.

It is not the first time that the world uncritically accepted human flying hoaxes. Remember this one?:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYW5G2kbrKk  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYW5G2kbrKk)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/weirdnewsvideo/9157973/Dutch-engineer-admits-hoax-after-human-bird-wings-flying-video-goes-viral.html (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/weirdnewsvideo/9157973/Dutch-engineer-admits-hoax-after-human-bird-wings-flying-video-goes-viral.html)

That was made by an industrial design student and his buddies on a shoestring budget on his home computer. Imagine what a big budget commercial production like this drone-hoax can do with sponsor money and money made from click-bait.

Guys! we are skeptics with a relentless hunger for truths, even if its an inconvenient one.
People believe in homeopathy because it sounds somehow plausible and they want it to be true.
And now skeptics believe in this superficially plausible act, just because it is cool and we all want it to be true.

As a VFX artist I am not seeing anything that sticks out as CGI and I do not agree with your assessment of the video, a "prop doll" would act the same way in the wind as a human. They are cutting around real time, no trickery, just editing, it makes for pleasing video. 2:49 would have needed roto work if fake and i'm certain that shot was raw.

Im not saying you are wrong but your reasoning does not hold up.

Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on December 28, 2016, 10:29:37 AM
Domino's wants to deliver pizza by drone.

http://www.thelocal.fr/20160826/pizza-delivery-drones-could-be-on-their-way-to-france

Quote
"We've always said that it doesn't make sense to have a two-tonne machine delivering a two-kilo object," said Domino's CEO Don Meij.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Harry Black on December 28, 2016, 01:36:36 PM
It wouldnt surprise me if something in the video were optimised to portray how they want it to work vs where they are currently at. Game companies do this all the time.

I dont think this is an outright fake though, I believe they are probably working on it, but that it may just fall short. Im reminded of google glass.
The only application I can see for this is if a person needs their new dildo or whatever NOW so they drive within drone distance of the warehouse and pay a fortune to get it.
One drone per delivery seems ridiculously resource intensive though, even at a high premium.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 16, 2017, 09:10:23 AM
Drone startup Lily went out of business despite $34M (!) funding. They are being sued for faking their videos that showed a supposedly autonomous drone taking breathtaking video selfies: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/16/selfie-drone-manufacturer-lily-camera-sued-over-allegations-misled-customers

The slick drone footage in the video was not shot by the Lily drone. Instead, it came a hand-piloted DJI Inspire drone. The Amazon delivery videos are no different than this fraud by Lily.

A little hype in advertising is OK, but Lily crossed the legal line into 'misleading' and is liable for $300M penalties. But doesn't Amazon mislead just as much with their staged drone delivery? The only difference with the Amazon delivery drone hype is that Lily used this to directly get money from consumers, while Amazon uses it to indirectly boost christmas sales.

Read the "People of the state of California vs Lily Robotics" lawsuit here https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2017/01/16/05702434-Page0-36.pdf
Title: Lily selfie-Drone startup is belly-up: an autopsy
Post by: PatrickG on January 16, 2017, 11:34:02 AM
The engineering update of Lily is interesting to get a glimpse of what is going one:

https://www.lily.camera/updates/

Reading between the lines it seems there were quite some serious engineering issues until the bitter end. The autonomous selfie drone likely did not work reliable enough. It was much harder to make improvements than they expected. Bugs are normal, and delays are normal in any engineering project. But it looks more like there were some structural issues with 'calibration' (likely code for reliable autonomous flight) and the camera. They were frantically trying to make it work, but couldn't.

Technically they simply could not deliver. The selfie-drone was overhyped: Lily promised features that it could not deliver. It is no surprise that a small startup company without breakthrough technology can make a breakthrough autonomously flying drone. It is technically hard to make autonomous flight reliable enough: if it were easy this would be standard fare on many drones already. 

The (very readable) court documents show more details about the difference between the sales hype and reality. It gives a great timeline showing how the vaporware was made. It suggest that they knew much earlier that the were unable to deliver in time:

https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2017/01/16/05702434-Page0-36.pdf

Now it remains to be seen whether they indeed will refund $34 million worth of pre-orders. If they are true con-man they will have taken off with the money and let the company go bust (in true Trump style). I hope that is not the case...  In any case the investors lost $15M.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Caffiene on January 17, 2017, 02:30:13 AM
The Amazon delivery videos are no different than this fraud by Lily.

[Citation needed]

Without direct evidence for this assertion, the fact that one company faked their promos is just terrible sloppy thinking of exactly the same sort used by alt-med proponents to say "well this researcher turned out to be faking their papers, therefore science is a fraud and homeopathy works".

The more relevant headline would be "viral pre-order startup fails to deliver product". Except that wouldnt be newsworthy, since it happens all the time even for products that are functionally identical to existing and proven products.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on January 17, 2017, 08:30:10 AM
This guy strikes me as quite similar in thinking to Phooey. Both have a bit of an obsession with a technology they doubt, and both allow it to cloud their thinking.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 17, 2017, 09:31:58 AM
The Amazon delivery videos are no different than this fraud by Lily.

[Citation needed]

Without direct evidence for this assertion, the fact that one company faked their promos is just terrible sloppy thinking ...

You are trying to put the bar impossibly high for me here, while conveniently accepting Amazon's hype without similar proof. There is no peer reviewed 'journal of truth in advertising' to draw citations from, while the absence of any Amazon publication in a robotics journal should give some pause for thought.

Could we agree that both the Amazon and the Lily drone ads are both professionally made using ad agencies, pretty actors, carefully chosen locations and a professional film crew? A narrative was made to tell a story of how the product is supposed to work. The dramatization was carefully edited together, likely from many takes.

I assert that in both cases there are engineering problems and drawbacks that are so big that the played out scenario doesn't work in practice. It is easy to edit together a drone delivery or a selfie shot using many takes. But to be practical these things need to work >99% of the time flawlessly, also under less ideal circumstances. They obviously don't, and it is likely it won't for a long time.

Why is there no drone delivery yet, after years of trying? Why did the selfie drone fail? What are the real engineering issues behind this failure? What breakthrough is needed, so what should university research focus on? The market is there given the

Being an engineer myself involved in product development, I'm all to familiar with the difference between a demo and a product that works out of the box. It takes a lot of effort, but no amount of effort can fixed an overlooked fatal flaw, especially if it involves the limits of of physics. 


Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 17, 2017, 01:20:02 PM
This guy strikes me as quite similar in thinking to Phooey. Both have a bit of an obsession with a technology they doubt, and both allow it to cloud their thinking.
Fair enough about the obsession for tech-quackery, but please let me know how it clouds my thinking and brings me to wrong conclusions.

And in a further attempt to un-cloud the mind, lets look at the typical categories of scams that we skeptics obsess about:


1 and 2 contain many long-dead horses, which makes it therefore less interesting. I think that the tech quackery (4) is under-exposed in the skeptic community. And skeptics are remarkably gullible, as the reactions of this thread show. So let me make a case for a more skeptical attention on tech-quackery:

Debunking tech quackery is cool because sooner rather than later can measure the claims and expose the scam. And then we can revise opinion if needed. So If 2 years from now Amazon has real drone delivery I will stand corrected.

It is also cool because it is more risky to engage in. Homeopathy is utter bunk, so that is just too easy to debunk. But on drone delivery the jury is still out.  I think I know the answer, and soon we will all know it. At least we don't have the circle jerk.

Also the hype of product pitches for startups (e.g. kickstarter) is a treasure trove of tech quackery. There is no shortage of topics, no shortage of gullible people that want to believe that the thing works. I am getting a little bored with the usual skeptical bashing of alt-med.

Tech literacy is important. People believe that solar cells in roads are a good thing (sola road), that combining a compute farm with a space heater is a good thing (nerdalize), and that drones will deliver stuff.  Real money is at stake with tech-quackery. The Lily drone was $35 million worth of vaporware. The art of angel investing is to separate the scammers and true believers from the realists that can deliver a working a product. That is a good skill to have.
 
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on January 17, 2017, 01:32:48 PM
You argued that because Lily faked their slick videos Amazon did, too.  That's anti-vaxer level illogic.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on January 17, 2017, 02:44:57 PM
Amazon will definitely hype their technology and present it in the best possible light, and possibly be overly-optimistic about time lines and actual consumer impact. But I don't think they'd actually make false claims. Slick advertisements are staged by actors. But Amazon has no reason to make false claims, and a lot to lose if they're caught doing it.

Actual drone delivery must await regulatory approval. But I fully expect it to become a reality, and a niche market at a very high price for a small number of people close enough to a fulfillment center.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 17, 2017, 08:41:52 PM
You argued that because Lily faked their slick videos Amazon did, too.  That's anti-vaxer level illogic.
No, I don't argue that because Lily is fake Amazon is fake as well.

I argue that they are both fake independently. They are fake because they show a product in action that does not work as advertised in practice. They are product demos, built from cherry picked shots. Working reliably in real life is a necessary condition for it to be true. Anyone can fly a drone with a package under it. For the concept to work many engineering and practical aspects need to line up.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Caffiene on January 18, 2017, 04:45:12 AM
[...]
I assert that in both cases there are engineering problems and drawbacks that are so big that the played out scenario doesn't work in practice.

Thats fine as far as it goes, but thats all it is. An assertion. Its an unrelated case that you've essentially related based purely on the fact that 1) its a drone and 2) you assert that Amazon is also fraudulent. You say yourself that youre arguing that they are independent - so why bring it up in the first place? If its independent then it has no relation to your argument.

Im not setting any bar and accepting Amazon's word, im defaulting to the appropriate skeptical position that "unknown" is a better answer when there is no evidence one way or the other than jumping to a conclusion that it is definitely true or definitely false.

One anecdote about a small start-up company that failed to make a drone that can route on-the-fly in any conditions using only mobile and on-board computing is a far cry from having any relevance to an application that can use pre-planned routing (with on-the-fly but over-the-air re-routing if required) from a large corporation with huge commercial data centers navigating to a fixed destination.
Title: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 18, 2017, 12:31:48 PM
[..]
Im not setting any bar and accepting Amazon's word, im defaulting to the appropriate skeptical position that "unknown" is a better answer when there is no evidence one way or the other than jumping to a conclusion that it is definitely true or definitely false.

One anecdote about a small start-up company that failed to make a drone that can route on-the-fly in any conditions using only mobile and on-board computing is a far cry from having any relevance to an application that can use pre-planned routing (with on-the-fly but over-the-air re-routing if required) from a large corporation with huge commercial data centers navigating to a fixed destination.

Fair enough to remain 'neutral' on Amazon's drone hype. I argue that skeptics need to take an as skeptical position on tech quackery as on medical quackery.  The 'cool factor' is no excuse to give it a free pass.

I also argue that it is fine to lay the bar high for claims made in product pitches. We need to call out likely falsehoods in a world of fake news. This forces some speculation on the feasibility because the data is not there yet. That is how investors work, and that is how skeptics can work as well.

The reason I'm so 'obsessed' with this is because this is very close to my area of expertise. I am an electrical engineer working in a large silicon Valley High-tech company. I've developed automatic routing algorithms and am in R&D product development in large companies and startups. I've done product pitches, I review scientific engineering papers, I've failed and I have succeeded in engineering stuff that actually works. And I build and fly model airplanes and drones in my spare time.

OK, OK OK, 'argument from authority' alert! Still I think my experience does counts in assessing the amount of hype in a pitch, and the feasibility of a thing, especially a drone that is hardware, and software battling it out to become something real.

The basic technology of drones have been solved already for a long time. Its available off the shelf. And using GPS navigation a drone can follow any programmed path from a source to destination. So it is obviously doable to demo of a delivery. But why is it taking so long to materialize beyond that to fully autonomous automatic delivery? The problem is unlikely the compute power. There is abundant in cheap multi-core embedded processors, so the amazon cloud is not an advantage. Being part of a large company is generally not an advantage either for innovative product development. Dedicated small startups with good people do a better job.

I obviously don't know the full answer, but I strongly suspect it is combination of any of the following engineering and practical issues:

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

Given how clever Jef Bezos is, I think he knows. He must have assessed this during a product review meeting. So I suspect he is just running this as a small 'long shot' project with limited resources. A fun thingie that generates publicity and plays well to non-engineers and investors.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on January 18, 2017, 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Caffiene on January 18, 2017, 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.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 19, 2017, 11:36:12 AM
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

[..] 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.

I respect that. I think here is were we disagree, and that is fine. I put a stake in the ground that there will be no drone delivery service, and that Amazon showed an unconvincing best case demo. Its not even a a proof of concept, so its tech quackery. I am calling it BS because the issues have no hope of getting fixed. Lets come back to this thread in two years and we know the answer (lets hope the SGU disk doesn't crash again without a backup). 

Some technological and practical issues just do not go away, even with infinite engineering effort. There are underlying physical limits that are misunderstood by many people, and often even experts succumb to wishful thinking. WRT drones, I an concerned that the following will turn out to be such hard limits: 

Putting a  few other skeptical stakes in the ground:

There will be no flying car during our lifetime, just like there wasn't one in the past 100 years. The physical trade-off of lightweight, aerodynamic and fail-safe just does not work. 
There will be no cell phone charging in just 1 minute, because it takes time to move a boatload of energy. 
There will ne no solar roads, because it will be both a bad road and a bad solar panel.
There will be no wireless powering or charging of any device larger than a fingernail. The power is too small.
There will be no 3-D printer in every home to replace product distribution cost. Other machining steps and assembly steps remain as hard as before.
There will be no Hyperloop transportation system. This hint is in the first 4 characters of the name. Elon is a marketing genius.
There will be solid evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy (just kidding)
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on January 19, 2017, 02:15:34 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

[..] 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.

I respect that. I think here is were we disagree, and that is fine. I put a stake in the ground that there will be no drone delivery service, and that Amazon showed an unconvincing best case demo. Its not even a a proof of concept, so its tech quackery. I am calling it BS because the issues have no hope of getting fixed. Lets come back to this thread in two years and we know the answer (lets hope the SGU disk doesn't crash again without a backup). 

Some technological and practical issues just do not go away, even with infinite engineering effort. There are underlying physical limits that are misunderstood by many people, and often even experts succumb to wishful thinking. WRT drones, I an concerned that the following will turn out to be such hard limits: 
  • Bad weather. Sudden turbulence and downdrafts especially near buildings will overwhelm even the strongest. As an example of weather dooming dreams: there is nowide application of lighter-than-air blimps despite huge efforts over the past 120 years. It seemed to cool to stay in the air effortlessly, but susceptibility to wind and associated issues could never be overcome to make it viable.
  • Obstacle detection and avoidance, especially in the dark or in inclement weather.  There is just a limit on what can be detected with camera sensors, and that is likely not enough for reliable autonomous service. I am confident that we can fix this sufficiently for self-driving cars, but much less so for small drones.  Close to the ground the smallest mistake means a crash (or worse), while a car has more options for go fail-safe. Also, the car has room for a much wider array of sensors than a small drone.

Putting a  few other skeptical stakes in the ground:

There will be no flying car during our lifetime, just like there wasn't one in the past 100 years. The physical trade-off of lightweight, aerodynamic and fail-safe just does not work. 
There will be no cell phone charging in just 1 minute, because it takes time to move a boatload of energy. 
There will ne no solar roads, because it will be both a bad road and a bad solar panel.
There will be no wireless powering or charging of any device larger than a fingernail. The power is too small.
There will be no 3-D printer in every home to replace product distribution cost. Other machining steps and assembly steps remain as hard as before.
There will be no Hyperloop transportation system. This hint is in the first 4 characters of the name. Elon is a marketing genius.
There will be solid evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy (just kidding)


Did dirigibles fail because they were really too susceptible to weather, or did they fail because of popular perception after the Hindenburg burned? And then we got airliners, which are faster.

I agree with your list of other "skeptical stakes in the ground" except that I have not looked into the hyperloop enough to have much of an opinion. It does look rather too "futuristic" to be practical.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on January 19, 2017, 03:13:20 PM
There will be no wireless powering or charging of any device larger than a fingernail. The power is too small.

Wireless charging of devices significantly larger than a fingernail already exists.  I have a wirelessly charged electric toothbrush. I had a wirelessly charged electric shaver fifteen years ago. There are wirelessly charged phones, with wireless charging rumored to be included in the next generation of phones from both Samsung and Apple. There are even wireless automobile chargers currently on the market.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: gcason on January 19, 2017, 05:43:13 PM
If Amazon would deliver something, anything to me via drone, I would order it right now just because it's fucking awesome. If someone would deliver me a pizza via drone I would be even more happy, if you can imagine that.   :laugh:
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 20, 2017, 09:48:16 AM
There will be no wireless powering or charging of any device larger than a fingernail. The power is too small.

Wireless charging of devices significantly larger than a fingernail already exists.  I have a wirelessly charged electric toothbrush. I had a wirelessly charged electric shaver fifteen years ago. There are wirelessly charged phones, with wireless charging rumored to be included in the next generation of phones from both Samsung and Apple. There are even wireless automobile chargers currently on the market.
Agree: wireless toothbrushes, smartphones and car charging exists and work. Sorry I forgot to qualify that with 'over longer distance'. In the case of smartphones and toothbrushes the distance is millimeters (fraction of inches), in the case of car charging it is ~10cm (a few inches). In either case the thing needs to be brought to a very specific spot to charge.  It typically adds 10%-20% energy losses, which is not insignificant.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on January 20, 2017, 10:01:57 AM
If Amazon would deliver something, anything to me via drone, I would order it right now just because it's fucking awesome. If someone would deliver me a pizza via drone I would be even more happy, if you can imagine that.   :laugh:
Agree its cool. For my kids I delivered the christmas presents using a large scale model train that ran around the house. Cool, but very fragile and limited to small stuff that fits in a boxcar.

I could imagine starting a 'drone surprise present' business out of the trunk of my car. For $250 (the same as a home repair service fee) I will surprise your spouse with a backyard delivery of a small present. Could probably do 4 per day. No autonomous flying is required.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on January 20, 2017, 05:23:41 PM
If Amazon would deliver something, anything to me via drone, I would order it right now just because it's fucking awesome. If someone would deliver me a pizza via drone I would be even more happy, if you can imagine that.   :laugh:
Agree its cool. For my kids I delivered the christmas presents using a large scale model train that ran around the house. Cool, but very fragile and limited to small stuff that fits in a boxcar.

I could imagine starting a 'drone surprise present' business out of the trunk of my car. For $250 (the same as a home repair service fee) I will surprise your spouse with a backyard delivery of a small present. Could probably do 4 per day. No autonomous flying is required.

In wealthier neighborhoods with big yards this would probably go over, at least until the novelty wears off. Not sure about charging $250. That might work for the super-wealthy. I think $100 would be more successful. But if you got enough orders you could probably do 10 or 20 a day. As a novelty service, you would not have to fly far at all. Maybe take off a block away. Acquiring the gift items would probably take more of your time than the actual deliveries, if you can get enough orders in a small enough area.

If Amazon would deliver something, anything to me via drone, I would order it right now just because it's fucking awesome. If someone would deliver me a pizza via drone I would be even more happy, if you can imagine that.   :laugh:

Didn't I read somewhere (maybe in this thread?) that Dominos was starting a pizza delivery service by drone? But I prefer mom & pop restaurants over big chains.

Here's an idea: Set up a company that would pick up and deliver food from local restaurants by drone. There are already companies that do this, but the novelty would be the drone. Since you'd have to stay within line of sight (in the absence of autonomous drones for now) it would be no faster than delivery by car. But the novelty would be cool.
Title: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on December 09, 2018, 10:15:26 AM
What happened to Amazon “Prime Air” Drone Delivery?

It is now two years after the last video and the start of this thread. Not a single piece of information from Amazon. Why didn’t this take off? Amazon claimed a commercial delivery in 2016. That was “technical quackery”. 
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on December 09, 2018, 12:58:29 PM
I suspect a combination of regulatory difficulties and lack of demand: Too few people willing to pay to get a delivery a few hours faster. Note that if you are within drone distance of a fulfillment center, you can already get same-day delivery by truck. There was probably a team within Amazon that thought this would be a good idea, and then more sensible heads shut it down. And I see no reason Amazon would have wanted to advertise that they had a bad idea and then dropped it.

Considering weight limitations, size limitations, distance limitations, small demand, and the very small marginal advantage over trucks, drone delivery service was probably destined to go nowhere. I think the biggest issue would be that they just don’t provide enough of an advantage over trucks.

Yesterday I was out in a canoe on the water off of Kihei, Maui, HI, when I heard a buzzing sound. I looked up and a drone flew over us.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Harry Black on December 09, 2018, 02:31:00 PM
Im sure the initial announcements were great for Amazon stock though.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: bimble on December 09, 2018, 05:09:06 PM
I did read (today in fact) a Moose Cree First Nation island that has signed a deal to received goods by drone whilst the access by boat/ice road isn't possible, starting next year. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367)
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on December 09, 2018, 05:57:12 PM
Im sure the initial announcements were great for Amazon stock though.

I doubt it made that much of a difference. Anybody who cared could find the charts and compare Amazon’s stock to that of the S&P 500 and to other retail companies at the time of the announcement. I don’t care enough to bother.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Soldier of FORTRAN on December 09, 2018, 06:43:08 PM
I did read (today in fact) a Moose Cree First Nation island that has signed a deal to received goods by drone whilst the access by boat/ice road isn't possible, starting next year. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367)

Damn, this is a really cool and really great use-case. 
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on December 10, 2018, 07:28:27 AM
I did read (today in fact) a Moose Cree First Nation island that has signed a deal to received goods by drone whilst the access by boat/ice road isn't possible, starting next year. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367)

Damn, this is a really cool and really great use-case.
"Your delivery has been delayed due to the fact that this is CANADA AND ITS WINTER. We regret any inconvenience this has caused you."
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on December 10, 2018, 09:43:35 AM
I did read (today in fact) a Moose Cree First Nation island that has signed a deal to received goods by drone whilst the access by boat/ice road isn't possible, starting next year. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367)

It’s much cheaper by the hour than a helicopter. But I’ll bet it’s much more expensive per pound of cargo delivered. So a drone is the clear choice for monitoring the river break-up or delivering small urgent packages like medicines. A helicopter is probably still the better choice for scheduled deliveries that can be delivered in large quantities, like most of what people buy regularly in stores.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on December 10, 2018, 10:00:04 AM
I own a DJI mavic pro: it is fantastic. Based on that I see a few great applications for drones. On the dark side drones will likely revolutionize oppressive surveillance, military battles and terrorism (e.g. as flying autonomous hand grenades).

Still... packet delivery likely won’t be the sweet spot of drones. The ‘two years of crickets’ following the Amazon Prime Air ‘delivery’ show that the drone work was not even close to operational at that time.

There are many reasons why drone delivery will remain a niche application. The main one is the limited advantage over regular road-based delivery, combined with many physical limitations.

Ordering a domino’s pizza gets it delivered home in 30 minutes: rain or shine, over a larger distance than a drone can travel, and for less than $5. The logistics of many small prime air bases that only carry tiny packages would be immense. On top of that drones will never be able to deliver to apartments or townhouses, nor will they be able to deliver >90% of the stuff you regularly buy at Amazon, even if you have a landing spot in the back yard.

There is no universe where Prime Air will make sense. Jeff Bezos is wickedly clever so he knows that. Amazon knowingly produced this fake news, carefully timing it to create free publicity during the Christmas buying season.
How come so few called Amazon out out on this in 2016? The window to call out is at the moment the fake news comes out, not 2 years later. The Russian election meddling is good example of this.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on December 10, 2018, 10:42:20 AM
The Amazon drones can deliver one package of limited weight, right? I ask because I recently saw a "drone" that carried a human. Looked like fun, but took about 80 drone motors. I immediately thought of rescue drones. The rig looked like four large hula hoops with motors suspended inside the circle.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: bimble on December 10, 2018, 11:48:16 AM
I did read (today in fact) a Moose Cree First Nation island that has signed a deal to received goods by drone whilst the access by boat/ice road isn't possible, starting next year. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46500367)

It’s much cheaper by the hour than a helicopter. But I’ll bet it’s much more expensive per pound of cargo delivered. So a drone is the clear choice for monitoring the river break-up or delivering small urgent packages like medicines. A helicopter is probably still the better choice for scheduled deliveries that can be delivered in large quantities, like most of what people buy regularly in stores.

The article did say there was a 5kg (11lb) limit on loads, but the fact that a deal has been signed (C$2.5m) suggests that it's for lighter deliveries like medicine and mail, until access is possible for either boats (summer) or trucks (winter)
Title: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on June 13, 2019, 10:45:38 AM
Two and a half after the supposedly first commercial drone delivery Amazon has finally broken the silence. They are back in the news with yet another drone design. This time it is using AI:

https://youtu.be/3HJtmx5f1Fc

The first deliveries are expected ‘within months’. This time for reals? Color me skeptical...

Why does Amazon add the disclaimer “actual autonomous flight footage, NOT SIMULATED” to the video? I think it means that that the ‘first customer drone delivery’ in 2016 ( https://youtu.be/vNySOrI2Ny8 ) was faked using actors. It was put out to get free publicity before the Christmas shopping season.

Will it be ready for prime time this time?

See:
https://www.apnews.com/91506a8d547a4c48be3cc7c6e357bc1c
https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613638/the-latest-prime-air-drone-delivers-packages-more-efficiently-and-safely/
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 13, 2019, 04:10:16 PM
The video says they have two customers. It also suggests buying dog treats this way. Who needs 30-minute delivery of dog treats? Their earlier hype featured a parent getting their kid athletic shoes in time for a game or race or something. That I can understand. Your kid is important to you. If they need shoes NOW for a big event, yeah, pay the premium shipping to get them in 30 minutes. But dog treats? Your dog would probably rather have table scraps in a pinch if you run out of dog treats.

BTW, on my way here I spent the night in Seattle and realized I had forgotten my iPad charger. Apple sent it to me by courier. Two-hour delivery. No drone needed. Okay, so 30 minutes is faster, but it will be a while before they get permission to run automated delivery drones in a big city.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on June 13, 2019, 04:24:21 PM
..
BTW, on my way here I spent the night in Seattle and realized I had forgotten my iPad charger. Apple sent it to me by courier. Two-hour delivery. No drone needed. Okay, so 30 minutes is faster, but it will be a while before they get permission to run automated delivery drones in a big city.

Domino’s can deliver a pizza in 30 minutes, rain or shine, to any home or apartment, without weight limit and in most of the (sub)urban USA. That just requires a kid in a beat-up car or on a scooter. It does not require a fragile drone infrastructure with dense network airport-warehouses. If there were truly a need for 30-minute delivery of dog food, it can be done much more economical without drones.

Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: stands2reason on June 13, 2019, 06:44:05 PM
Domino’s can deliver a pizza in 30 minutes, rain or shine, to any home or apartment, without weight limit and in most of the (sub)urban USA. That just requires a kid in a beat-up car or on a scooter. It does not require a fragile drone infrastructure with dense network airport-warehouses. If there were truly a need for 30-minute delivery of dog food, it can be done much more economical without drones.

Except that warehouses are typically quite a bit farther on average than your nearest pizza place. If you were talking about a 30 min drive each way for a delivery person (i.e. an Uber even one way from warehouse to residence), it would cost a lot more than the delivery fee on a pizza.

Still though, if you were talking about hourly or bihourly instead with batching, it would basically work the same as a parcel service, but delivering small orders more regularly.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 13, 2019, 10:29:17 PM
Yeah, an Amazon warehouse is a lot more expensive to set up and operate than a pizza parlor. The latter is making one item, on which they put your choice of a set, small number of toppings. The warehouse needs a stock of thousands of items. The result is that there will almost certainly be a pizza parlor closer to you than an Amazon warehouse. So while nearly anybody in the U.S. can get a pizza delivered in half an hour, maybe 0.00007% of the population will be able to get an Amazon drone delivery once the program is fully built out.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: The Latinist on June 14, 2019, 12:48:19 AM
Yeah, an Amazon warehouse is a lot more expensive to set up and operate than a pizza parlor. The latter is making one item, on which they put your choice of a set, small number of toppings. The warehouse needs a stock of thousands of items. The result is that there will almost certainly be a pizza parlor closer to you than an Amazon warehouse. So while nearly anybody in the U.S. can get a pizza delivered in half an hour, maybe 0.00007% of the population will be able to get an Amazon drone delivery once the program is fully built out.

Your figure has to be orders of magnitude off, Daniel.  You could probably build 10 carefully-placed warehouses in the US that would have 25 million people within half an hour’s drone flight.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: brilligtove on June 14, 2019, 10:45:23 AM
I understand that Amazon (and maybe other companies) have been building warehouses right in the downtown core of many cities, rather than on the outskirts. They're doing this to be able to make those same-day to same-hour deliveries.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 14, 2019, 10:50:32 AM
Yeah, an Amazon warehouse is a lot more expensive to set up and operate than a pizza parlor. The latter is making one item, on which they put your choice of a set, small number of toppings. The warehouse needs a stock of thousands of items. The result is that there will almost certainly be a pizza parlor closer to you than an Amazon warehouse. So while nearly anybody in the U.S. can get a pizza delivered in half an hour, maybe 0.00007% of the population will be able to get an Amazon drone delivery once the program is fully built out.

Your figure has to be orders of magnitude off, Daniel.  You could probably build 10 carefully-placed warehouses in the US that would have 25 million people within half an hour’s drone flight.

I thought it would be obvious that I was being hyperbolic.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on June 14, 2019, 01:37:59 PM
If we have fewer white vans with people reading the GPS instead of watching for traffic I'm good with the whole system.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on June 14, 2019, 02:14:35 PM
If we have fewer white vans with people reading the GPS instead of watching for traffic I'm good with the whole system.
You have a point. But to take a cue from your screen name: I’m not good with noisy drones overhead transporting dog food to my neighbors.  It is all a trade-off...

It is funny that the “cool factor” of drone delivery makes even skeptics resort to motivated reasoning that make it seem reasonable. All my life I dreamt abound Christmas present delivery by a model train. It is cool and it can be made to work, but it is might expensive and mighty impractical. 
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: 2397 on June 14, 2019, 09:42:37 PM
Technology should be making land vehicles safer as well, so it's not about future drones vs. current cars and trucks.

Once it's all self-driving, maybe the vans can park next to your building, then send out a small robot with your items to go up the elevator and all that.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 15, 2019, 01:42:25 PM
Drone delivery is a cool idea. It's just not practical or economical. Unless your kid really needs that pair of athletic shoes in time for the game in half an hour, and you happen to live somewhere drones can operate safely and you're within a couple of miles of a fulfillment center.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: PatrickG on June 15, 2019, 03:03:06 PM
Drone delivery is a cool idea. It's just not practical or economical. Unless your kid really needs that pair of athletic shoes in time for the game in half an hour, and you happen to live somewhere drones can operate safely and you're within a couple of miles of a fulfillment center.
...and the fulfillment center in large enough to have exactly the right brand, size and color of the athletic shoe in stock, and you are willing to pay the $75 express delivery fee, and the weather is good, and there are not power wires over your garden...

Agreed.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Harry Black on June 16, 2019, 09:09:36 AM
This level of change needs to be viewed through the lense of how it will impact climate change too in my opinion.
A few drones here and there? Not great, but surely a blip overall.
A massive infrastructure built to facilitate such a non essential service with a view to further and further roll out?
Personally I think it goes against any real plans we could put in place to reduce carbon emissions. To allow a private company to create such infrastructure (thus having a monopoly on the system in the unlikely event that it is successful) is also a really bad idea.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 16, 2019, 01:04:58 PM
This level of change needs to be viewed through the lense of how it will impact climate change too in my opinion.
A few drones here and there? Not great, but surely a blip overall.
A massive infrastructure built to facilitate such a non essential service with a view to further and further roll out?
Personally I think it goes against any real plans we could put in place to reduce carbon emissions. To allow a private company to create such infrastructure (thus having a monopoly on the system in the unlikely event that it is successful) is also a really bad idea.

Right now we have courier services that use cars and motorbikes. If those are replaced with drones, would the carbon impact be increased? I don't think this is a drone issue. I think it's an issue of human economic activity in general and where we get our energy.

Could drones compete with courier services by eliminating the need for a paid driver? Maybe, for small enough items. Maybe for pizza delivery, the one market where people actually pay for fast delivery in large enough numbers to justify the investment in hardware. But you're still going to need drivers for destinations the drone cannot get to.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Harry Black on June 16, 2019, 03:49:52 PM
This level of change needs to be viewed through the lense of how it will impact climate change too in my opinion.
A few drones here and there? Not great, but surely a blip overall.
A massive infrastructure built to facilitate such a non essential service with a view to further and further roll out?
Personally I think it goes against any real plans we could put in place to reduce carbon emissions. To allow a private company to create such infrastructure (thus having a monopoly on the system in the unlikely event that it is successful) is also a really bad idea.

Right now we have courier services that use cars and motorbikes. If those are replaced with drones, would the carbon impact be increased? I don't think this is a drone issue. I think it's an issue of human economic activity in general and where we get our energy.

Could drones compete with courier services by eliminating the need for a paid driver? Maybe, for small enough items. Maybe for pizza delivery, the one market where people actually pay for fast delivery in large enough numbers to justify the investment in hardware. But you're still going to need drivers for destinations the drone cannot get to.
How will it ever be more energy efficient to lift the entire weight of an object and move it across distance vs moving multiple objects on wheels?
We are already moving toward driverless delivery vehicles so I cant see that increasing or decreasing the number of vehicles required to get goods from A to B.

Even if drones get adopted for luxury parcel delivery, there will still be a requirement for wheeled vehicle delivery so you will only increase the amount of energy consuming vehicles being used to deliver goods.

And again, there is the issue of private monopoly of this stuff should it ever be as successful as people wish it to be.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: John Albert on June 16, 2019, 04:02:07 PM
I doubt Amazon will actually implement a drone delivery service. There are so many more reasonable options, the practicality of such a plan falls apart on the slightest inspection.

Publicly hinting at it is clearly a brilliant marketing gimmick though.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 16, 2019, 05:17:01 PM
This level of change needs to be viewed through the lense of how it will impact climate change too in my opinion.
A few drones here and there? Not great, but surely a blip overall.
A massive infrastructure built to facilitate such a non essential service with a view to further and further roll out?
Personally I think it goes against any real plans we could put in place to reduce carbon emissions. To allow a private company to create such infrastructure (thus having a monopoly on the system in the unlikely event that it is successful) is also a really bad idea.

Right now we have courier services that use cars and motorbikes. If those are replaced with drones, would the carbon impact be increased? I don't think this is a drone issue. I think it's an issue of human economic activity in general and where we get our energy.

Could drones compete with courier services by eliminating the need for a paid driver? Maybe, for small enough items. Maybe for pizza delivery, the one market where people actually pay for fast delivery in large enough numbers to justify the investment in hardware. But you're still going to need drivers for destinations the drone cannot get to.
How will it ever be more energy efficient to lift the entire weight of an object and move it across distance vs moving multiple objects on wheels?
We are already moving toward driverless delivery vehicles so I cant see that increasing or decreasing the number of vehicles required to get goods from A to B.

Even if drones get adopted for luxury parcel delivery, there will still be a requirement for wheeled vehicle delivery so you will only increase the amount of energy consuming vehicles being used to deliver goods.

And again, there is the issue of private monopoly of this stuff should it ever be as successful as people wish it to be.

Often a courier is driving a two-ton car to deliver a half-pound item. That's why it can, sometimes, be more efficient to use a drone. A drone would probably deliver a pizza at a lower carbon footprint than a car. (Though not as low as a bicycle.)

But note that I agree with you that if it ever becomes a reality it will be a luxury for the rich, if they live close enough to the fulfillment center and want something light enough for the drone. The rich already produce a large carbon footprint with luxury items. There's no particular reason to single out drones as a special case. Rather than criticize drones for their environmental footprint it would make more sense to tax the rich 90% of their total wealth, until they were not rich any more and could not afford all those high-carbon luxuries. (I say this, being one of those myself who has too big a carbon footprint, confident that it won't happen in my lifetime, since our politicians are not going to tax the people who keep them in office.)
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: Harry Black on June 16, 2019, 05:24:32 PM
I think we can take wider steps to reduce carbon emissions and also criticise individual things.
Using tax and higher cost to steer people toward the decisions we want them to make is a thing we can do. Legislating as was done during WW2 with preserving resources for the war effort is also a thing we can do.
We need to take some drastic steps so rather than choosing between a van and a drone to deliver some new HDMI cable someone really needs, Id prefer such things were delivered by bike courier.

Thats all wishlist legislation, but my main point is that drone delivery is a bad idea and falls apart under scrutiny as John said.
Title: Re: Drone delivery hype
Post by: daniel1948 on June 16, 2019, 09:03:20 PM
I think we can take wider steps to reduce carbon emissions and also criticise individual things.
Using tax and higher cost to steer people toward the decisions we want them to make is a thing we can do. Legislating as was done during WW2 with preserving resources for the war effort is also a thing we can do.
We need to take some drastic steps so rather than choosing between a van and a drone to deliver some new HDMI cable someone really needs, Id prefer such things were delivered by bike courier.

Thats all wishlist legislation, but my main point is that drone delivery is a bad idea and falls apart under scrutiny as John said.

Carbon tax. BIG carbon tax. That will create a big disincentive against drones and SUVs and unnecessary or inefficient delivery systems, as well as giving a boost to bike couriers, and making the roads safer for them because people will drive less.

I see drones as a bad idea but an insignificant contributor to our problems.