The Icelandic government gave Aha Partners’ approval to test drones beyond visual line of sight, a rarefied and important permission in the drone sector where stringent rules and regulations can stifle innovation. Kristofersson began flying delivery drones on the outskirts of the city, and has now moved to taking off close to the busiest intersection in Iceland’s capital city, becoming one of a select few able to test the viability of drone deliveries by flying in an urban setting.
“Already we have drones that are capable of getting Aha goods from A to B in a more efficient manner than an electric car,” he said. “The noise is significantly less than what you will hear from a highway or a road.”
A Foggy Future
However, Kristofersson’s company has to prove that their fleet of delivery drones are safe enough to scale. Constantly evolving regulations, public perception and uncertainty are additional obstacles to realizing his goal.
“Nobody really knows exactly what the traffic system will look like once regulation takes hold,” he said. “Will we see larger cargo and passenger drones catch on faster than delivery drones? I'm more worried about public perception.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were first used by the military to carry out surveillance and combat operations without risk to human personnel. Some of the negative connotations surrounding this technology can likely be attributed to these early applications.
“The benefits to the public need to be explained,” Kristofersson said. “These are extremely stable machines. It's people that are not stable. Everybody wants a drone delivery, but nobody wants a drone flying over their house. Once the public is used to delivery drones that are maybe 15 to 20 kilos of weight, their use will only scale upwards.”
But this requires extensive testing. The equipment needs to be able to fly in a variety of conditions including rain and wind in order for these vehicles to be a practical solution. He said this is why drone deliveries are not yet common.
“We are now running on a program where we try to increase deliveries by 15 to 20% every month,” he said.
If the program succeeds, smart cities and towns around the world will know what it takes to enable a local drone delivery system.
“This will completely change logistics and transport over the next, five to 20 years,” he said.
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