Drones haven't had their coming out (or taking off) party just yet, but that hasn't stopped plenty of retailers from testing their own autonomous aerial fulfillment systems. However, Uvionix has a model that could turn Drones-as-a-Service into the next big thing in local delivery.
Drone manufacturer Uvionix announced on Tuesday (April 26) its nSKY service that allows local retailers to operate their own fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles for deliveries within a six-mile coverage area. The nSKY drones can't carry oversized packages — payloads are limited to just 1.2 pounds — and promotional images show compartments big enough for a hand-sized box. But they were specifically designed for performance in dense, urban environments. The nSKY UAVs boast a 27-inch circular footprint, parachutes to be used in emergencies and rotating blades housed within protective casings so retailers don't have to become airspace watchdogs themselves.
And, at just $3 per delivery, it might be a low enough price to convince some shoppers that a drone dropping into their backyards is more convenient than the drive across town.
ZDNet also noted that while the nSKY drones might not be marvels of engineering themselves, they're designed to fit into just about any retailers' normal operations. Each participating retailer would receive drones in compact storage racks that include multiple swappable, quick-charging batteries to cut down on lag time between last-mile deliveries. All local merchants need to do is load the purchased product into the centrally located receptacle and use a smartphone interface to send the drone on its merry way.
Uvionix said that the first nSKY drones could hit the market by 2017, but they and the rest of the retail UAV world also have to wait for federal approval for urban drone deliveries. If and when that happens, Uvionix is betting on striking the Drones-as-a-Service market big with its $3 ticket to fly.