Move Over 'TacoCopter': Here Comes The 'Internet Of Drones'

from the pity-about-those-regulations dept

As we know, the Internet works by breaking digital information up into IP packets which are then routed independently over the network, and then re-assembled at their destination. Anything made up of 0s and 1s can be sent anywhere with an Internet connection in this way, but that isn't much good for physical objects.

It's true that we are fast approaching the day when we will be able to use a 3D scanner to send a digital file representing an object across the Internet so that it can then be printed at the destination. But that only works for simple, fungible items like cups or replacement parts, and is useless if you want to deliver a particular, personal item rather than just a generic copy.

To do that, we need an Internet of drones:

A short distance drone delivery service built on an open protocol. Think short haul logistics.

It's a system that will explode in a way that is very similar to the way the Internet grew up -- where connections were bought by individuals and installed one modem and IP address at a time, and where the early providers are local geeks with shelves full of modems and an expensive T-1 lines.

It's an approach that uses "uncontrolled airspace" and incremental purchases of cheap, standards compliant pads/drones to roll itself out (very similar to the way the Internet was able to piggy back on the old telephone system).

As a result of this open approach and decentralization, it's something that could grow VERY fast.
If you're still unsure how this would work in practice, the post by John Robb quoted above goes on to spell out the details for a simple example. The bottom line for returning a forgotten smartphone to its owner 30 miles away:
Costs? Probably less than $0.25 per 10 mi. or so. So, about $0.75 in this instance. Time? An hour or so.
Of course, this is just a generalization of an idea we discussed back in March of last year, the so-called "TacoCopter", but taken to the next level, modelled on the Internet's IP packets. As we pointed out then, it's a great idea with lots of practical problems, mostly regulatory ones. Arguably the far greater potential of the Internet of drones concept makes the argument for loosening up those restrictions to permit innovation in this area even more compelling.

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Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 2:06am

    Why only deliver to a static point? Add the right GPS app to your smartphone and drone delivery could bring a distinctly heightened new meaning to targeted junk mail.

     

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    Chris, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 2:36am

    Not a chance

    Interesting idea, but way too much potential for abuse.

    Wouldn't be too hard to start shooting them down in hope of a valuable find, or the delivery of less than desirable exploding objects and so on.

    It would need to be highly restricted and monitored which defeats the whole purpose, and wouldn't work well with one off items... digitising and reproduction is definitely the way to go

     

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      FreeCultureForFreePeople, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 4:20am

      Re: Not a chance

      Is this the way you treat your postman, too? Postmen, too, are in the business of delivering (sometimes) valuable goods, and their services have been used more than once in the past to deliver explosive letters to embassy staff and other Government officials.

      Sure, gunning down a drone is not the same as gunning down a postman - it's only an object, not a human being.

      The motivation behind gunning down either of the two would be the same, however (greed and personal defense). And I'm not aware of too many incidents involving gunned down postmen.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 4:47am

        Re: Re: Not a chance

        Well, you have to consider the risks involved. There's very little chance that a Drone will kick your ass for waving a gun at it.

         

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        Chris, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 6:20am

        Re: Re: Not a chance

        The two concepts don't compare at all.. One is an organised, insured private company who organise, filter, xray etc for dangerous objects, and the other is a concept to mimic the open nature of a digital network.

        By the time you change the concept to match the security protocols of a postal service, it's nothing like the original idea.. so it doesn't work.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 8:06am

      Re: Not a chance

      Now tell me how you would shoot them down if they're flying several hundred feet in the air.

      Unless you want to convince me that you're the terminator, that's next to impossible for even a skilled hunter with the proper gear.

       

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    Rekrul, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 4:24am

    Costs? Probably less than $0.25 per 10 mi. or so. So, about $0.75 in this instance. Time? An hour or so.

    He left out this part;

    Of course, those are the actual costs involved to operate the system. The end cost for the user will likely be about $5 per mile. So in this example, the total cost would be $15.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 4:47am

    "Internet Of Drones"

    What could possibly go wrong?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 5:24am

      Re:

      "What could possibly go wrong?"

      Phase 1:
      Build Internet of Drones

      Phase 2:
      Give Drones the ability to self-replicate

      Phase 3:
      Kneel before PQX-2554, Supreme Overlord of the Squishy Humans.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 5:23am

    $0.25 every 10 miles? I don't think even the most fuel efficient cars in the world can get that kind of gas mileage with gas around $3 a gallon today.

    $3 a gallon of gas means you can drive 120 miles a gallon, and no, you can't do that. I've heard of nothing that uses gas getting more then 50 miles a gallon. Some electric cars can go a few hundred miles on electricity, but guess what, that costs money to.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 8th, 2013 @ 7:18am

    While I do believe there might be some sort of 'drone' internet I don't think it's quite the right concept. I can't think of what will be. However it's clear that we are not ready for such seeing how much the Governments are trying to put the internet under surveillance and how net neutrality is still in its early developments...

     

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    Chris, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 7:48am

    Physical DoS attacks

    A zombie army of drones would bring a whole new level to DoS attacks... think "The Birds"... wont that be fun

     

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    akp, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    It's getting awful crowded in my sky.

     

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