Human-friendly solutions for last-centimeter drone delivery

The popularity of delivery drones is constantly increasing due to their ability to deliver packages more rapidly and economically than current transportation methods. Consequently, drones have been employed by logistics companies for delivering payloads to hard-to-reach places and for daily door-to-door deliveries. However, logistic companies focus mainly on large platforms for long-range (<150km) and last-mile delivery (<20km), not designed to deliver directly to individual consumers. The drones suffer four major limitations: limited safety, difficulty for storage and poor portability, poor adaptability to different sized parcels and lack of user-friendliness. Safety limitations arise from the unshielded spinning propellers. Drone operators have to utilize secure take-off and landing locations, away from people e.g. on runways, rooftops and fenced-off areas. Unshielded propellers and large-sized platforms limit the drone's capability to deliver parcels in crowded urban environments. Moreover, landing in remote locations is challenging due to dense vegetation or inclined surfaces such as mountains. A common solution to shield propellers is to adopt a protective cage to enclose the drone. However, this approach generates a large amount of drag on the drone that reduces its aerodynamic efficiency. Presently, storage and transportation of drones to the deployment area are inconvenient, especially for large flying platforms needed for the delivery of large or heavy parcels. Similarly, the use of large platforms and their software is limited to trained operators. Finally, sizes of delivered parcels vary significantly and the adaptability of current drones is limited; most drones can only deliver parcels of a predefined size. This thesis focuses on the design process of parcel delivery solutions that addresses the abovementioned limitations for person-to-person and short-range delivery services. These solutions are integrated into a single aerial delivery system known as Dronistics ("Drone" and "logistics"). This new system consists of the hardware component, which includes two drones code-named PackDrone and GearQuad, and the software component called SimplyFly. The integrated parcel delivery solution comprises the following features: * Transportation of parcels of variable sizes * Enhanced safety for people, the drone and the transported items * Easier storage and transportation of the drone * Usability of the delivery drone - software interface for inexperienced users * An energy-efficient system Transporting parcels of variable size was realized using a new design approach of placing the parcel above the propellers in both drone platforms. This allows transportation of super-sized parcels larger than the drone while maintaining the vehicle’s small footprint. Moreover, PackDrone addresses the safety, storage and transportation concerns by integrating a quadcopter within an origami-inspired foldable cage. The cage separates the propellers from the external environment, which includes people, obstacles and the parcel as well. For easier storage and transportation, PackDrone folds in a single hand movement, reducing storage volume by 92%. GearQuad on the other hand, overcomes the above limitations and improves safety and aerodynamic efficiency. The very dense cage of GearQuad allows it to fly near children and land in the hands of the consumer (last-centimeter delivery) or in hard-to-land environments. Its morphing

Floreano, Dario
Lausanne, EPFL

 Record created 2020-01-28, last modified 2020-02-23

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