Bookbots in the Sky
Commercial use of drones hasn't caught on in the
USA, primarily because the FAA is still trying to figure
out how to generate regulations to address the slew of
privacy and safety concerns. However, the Aussies have
been at it for quite a while. In fact, in 2002, they
became the first country to allow and regulate the
commercial use of unmanned aircraft. More than 50
licensed operators are already in business, mostly offering
aerial photography and survey services. More recently, a
company called Zookal ( www.zookal.com) applied to the
country's Civil Aviation Safety Authority for authorization to
operate a textbook rental business that uses chopper drones
for delivery. Reportedly, Zookal has raised $2.1 million from
Silicon Valley venture capitalists to get started, so someone
must believe in the concept.
The company will initially field a fleet of six battery-powered UAVs that can handle a payload of 2 kg ( 4. 4 lb) and carry it up to 3 km (1.9 mi). This presents some
obvious limitations, as the three-volume hardcover edition of War and Peace would max it out, and most
customers are likely to live more than two miles away. According to company founder and CEO Ahmed Haider,
"We expect the use of drones will cut our delivery costs from $8.60 to $0.80 per delivery, and because they
are battery powered, the environmental impact is minimal."
If a bookstore is located on a college campus where significant numbers of students are too lazy or
buzzed to walk that far, it just might work. Unless, of course, the students have heard of e-books. SV
A Zookal book delivery bot: cheap to
operate and greener than trucks.
T A B L E T O P
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10 SERVO 01.2014