Hitchhiking delivery drones could carry packages long distances by perching on the roofs of buses and trams to save their batteries

  • Delivery drones could hitch a ride by landing on public transport to extend range
  • Most prototype delivery drones can travel around 12 miles to make a delivery
  • This range could be extended by about four-and-half times if they ‘hitchhiked’

Delivery drones could hitch a ride by landing on public transport to deliver to far away locations.  

Most prototype delivery drones can currently travel around 12 miles to make a delivery before their battery fails.

This range could be extended by about four-and-half times if the agile machines landed on the roofs of buses or trams to piggyback in the right direction, finds study. 

Shushman Choudhury, who led the research at Stanford University in California told The New Scientist: ‘We already have this existing, generally decent infrastructure for most good cities and we’re just benefiting from that.

Most prototype delivery drones can currently travel around 12 miles to make a delivery before their battery fails (stock)

Most prototype delivery drones can currently travel around 12 miles to make a delivery before their battery fails (stock)

‘You could now service deliveries over a city while having far fewer depots.’

The researchers have created a computer programme that plans bus routes for delivery drones to take telling them which stop to get on and off at and also deciding which drone should take which package.

With Hitchhiking drones most effective for deliveries in busy cities researchers say the only thing that they expect to hold them back is regulation against the introduction of the delivery drones acting in such a way. 

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Mr Choudhury admitted that practical issues such as noise pollution, actually landing drones on buses and dealing with delayed buses, were yet to be ironed out and had not been considered by the study.

Drones could hitch a ride on buses in major cities with regular bus routes. A London bus (stock)

Drones could hitch a ride on buses in major cities with regular bus routes. A London bus (stock)

Simulations of the newly thought up plan were created for San Francisco and Washington D.C. with software instructing 200 drones where to deliver their 5000 packages, reports The New Scientist.

Drones are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. while public transport is run by the Department of Transportation meaning rules for the implementation of hitchhiking drones would need to be agreed by two bodies. 

Niels Agatz at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands told the New Scientist that while ‘exploiting predictable, existing traffic flows is smart’, he feared systems would be too slow if they relied on public transport. 

HOW ARE DRONES CHANGING THE WORLD? 

Drone use is already growing across an array of applications.

They range in size from something that could slip into your pocket right up to the behemoth weaponry used by militaries around the world.

And they are not only in the skies – they can also be found driving on the ground, inspecting sub-sea pipelines, crawling into tight gaps too dangerous for humans or even rocketing off to outer space. 

They are used by emergency services, including search and rescue and tackling fires, through to innovations in agriculture, construction, humanitarian aid, wildlife preservation and personal security.

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It is predicted that drones will spawn a £70billion ($100bn) industry by 2020.

E-commerce, package and fast food delivery have yet to fully develop in this sector but companies such as Google and Amazon are investing heavily in the application of drones.



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