Drone delivery systems have so far been restricted by the need to deliver to a specific address. Cambridge Consultants’ vision was to make deliveries safely and directly into the recipient's hand. The company has achieved this through a drone delivery system that implements a two-stage routing process. It starts by using GPS to navigate to a user’s smart phone location, periodically requesting secure location updates during the flight until it arrives within visual range. Then the drone switches to precision optical tracking and a 3D imaging and ranging system to locate and authenticate the recipient.
When the drone reaches the recipient, they simply point their mobile phone flash LED to the sky which blinks a coded pattern, allowing the drone to verify that it is delivering to the correct person. The drone then moves directly above this flashing LED, remaining at a safe height above ground. The package is then lowered into the recipient’s hands, using a stabilising winch to keep the package steady, where it is then unhitched by the recipient and the drone returns to its base.
This type of ultra-precision delivery is ideal for the instant distribution of items needed right away, such as delivering a first aid kit to a hiker, or an inner tube to a stranded cyclist or essential components into remote regions stuck by natural disasters.
“Ultra-precision is the future of drone delivery, and the opportunities are almost limitless,” said Nathan Wrench, head of the industrial and energy business at Cambridge Consultants. “The mobile phone changed the way we make calls, from a location to an individual; we believe this technology has the potential to re-shape e-commerce in the same way, making deliveries to a person a practical proposition, no matter where they are."