Fewer Delivery Drone Failures: Self-Diagnostics May Help

Just because something is brand new, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve upon it. There was widespread unease expressed over Amazon’s announcement that they would use delivery drones to ship to nearby customers. On the other hand, admiration was also expressed concerning this advancement. One of the biggest concerns was how to have fewer delivery drone failures—after the drones have actually been in the field and racked up hours of deliveries. After all, just ask any delivery person: it’s a tough job, even for a human.

Researchers believe they have developed an algorithm that will allow delivery drones to monitor their own status and recognize when they need to come in for repairs. It’s a procedure that starts before the drone ever leaves for a delivery and continues throughout the day. First, a map of the delivery route is made available offline. Systems are then put in place to monitor everything from fuel levels to how well the propeller is working.

The offline map lets the drone use its limited processing power for things other than delivering a package to the correct location. With the information already encoded, the drone is free to monitor necessary route changes as well as its own physical condition.

Initial tests show that when the drones took into consideration things that could affect performance, such as wind conditions, and monitored their own health, such as fuel levels, there were fewer delivery failures. For example, drones that unexpectedly ran low on fuel thanks to being rerouted or due to weather conditions, which made the flight more strenuous, were able to reroute to a nearby refueling area rather than landing and waiting for servicing.

Because of the expense involved with building drones, and the importance of on-time delivery, it is understandable that this mode of delivery will continue to be researched. Any techniques that can minimize and actually provide fewer delivery drone failures will be important—if the technology is actually to succeed and thrive.