Last September, a few lucky Virginia Tech students sat on a special kiosk in the university campus and  watched as their burritos order prepared to land at their feet. After the first pizza ever delivered by drone in New Zeland, it was made clear that drone delivery service was here to stay. Few months ago, Amazon launched Prime Air, a similar delivery system, in order to deliver an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn in Cambridge, UK.. It only took 13 minutes from clicking the button until unpacking the box that landed in the yard, Amazon reported. No doubt about efficiency, but how about safety? Nobody wants a drone landing on their dog’s head, neither the dog getting to the pizza before they do.

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Amazon’s patent looks at drones dropping packages from the sky

Amazon has been testing for several years to determine the best delivery method for customers in the future. In order to prevent potentially dangerous collisions between the drones and any people, pets or objects in a customer’s yard, Amazon is considering keeping its drones high above customers’ homes, using magnets, parachutes or spring coils to release the delivery while in mid-flight. Once the package is released, the drone would then monitor the descending box to make sure it’s dropping properly onto the desired landing patch. For example, wind could potentially blow a package into a balcony, power line or tree. To solve this, Amazon’s drones would radio a message to an off-course package, instructing it to deploy a parachute, compressed air canister or landing flap.

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An illustration of the bio-inspired flying bee. It has animal hairs coated with ionic liquid gel to pollinate a flower like a bee. (Image credit: Dr. Eijiro Miyako)

While Amazon and Google are counting on exponential technologies to upgrade occidental dietary habits, scientists in the Upper East have far more delicate interests when it comes to drone applications; flower pollination. It seems that bees’ population is steadily declining, posing potential risks to agriculture. While the reasons bees are in trouble aren’t yet well understood, some technologists are investigating whether drones could fly flower-spreading pollen instead. The latest effort comes from Japan, where investigators at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science, in Tsukuba, purchased $100 drones from Amazon, then added patches of horsehair to their undersides and flew the drones smack into the male and female parts of Japanese lilies. It’s the first time a drone has pollinated a flower, according to project leader Eijiro Miyako, although the invention is still no replacement for the old-school bumblebee.

It seems rather functionalist to consider a whole species as a simple pollinator, since insects’ populations play a much broader, crucial role stabilising the food chain. But the potential use of drones in construction and waste management industry, or even transportation service might turn out to be outstanding in terms of reducing costs, or even lifesaving, since drones can venture where humans and heavy machinery should not. Just think that one of the leading causes of work-related deaths are transportation accidents in various countries, so you can re-appreciate the value of drone-delivered pizza.


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