In a series of "groundbreaking first" the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore successfully delivered and transplanted a donor kidney into a patient using an unmanned drone to transport the donated organ. Within a matter of months, your future Amazon orders could be delivered by a self-driving drone. Officials with the online shopping giant unveiled the latest Prime Air drone design Wednesday at Amazon's re:MARS Conference (Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space) in Las Vegas. "We've been hard at work building fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes," Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "And, with the help of our world-class fulfillment and delivery network, we expect to scale Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, delivering packages via drone to customers within months."
There have been concerns from different quarters regarding the safety of drones and their uses, with different voices having contributed to this debate. There is a consensus, however, that there is need for policing and regulating policies to ensure that drones do not expose people and countries to danger. Last year, an unmanned autonomous vehicle was spotted flying towards a passenger airplane flight 366 causing different groups to come together and work with the industry, the White House and various universities to develop rules and regulations on the use of drones. And while these rules and regulations are necessary, stakeholders also agree that it is crucial to provide a policy for drone technology in the national air space. "There's tremendous personal responsibility, and you need to educate yourself before you open the box and start to operate an airframe like this," Keith Kaplan, CEO of Tesla Foundation and representative of UAV System Association, was quoted as saying.
Railway operators are concerned about the rail tracks, trains and are using UAV's to create an aerial plan of all trees within 60 meters of track, comprising hotspots which include mature trees. Earlier to keep the track and lines clear, a number of branches leaves and trees have already been cleared off. But if the trains are at an imminent risk, then clearing off the trees would take place. "Tree pruning and felling should be avoided at this time of year to avoid harming birds, and if it's emergency work for urgent safety reasons, then, of course, it needs to be done. Getting everyone home safe every day is our top priority," says one of the RSPB's spokesmen.
With backing from big broadcasters like ESPN and Sky Sports, drone racing is already making its mark on TV. The Drone Racing League's (DRL) inaugural five race season is now two races deep, having visited Miami and Los Angeles, but the company is already thinking ahead to next year's championship. After revealing that the UK would host its first professional drone race in 2017 back in September, the DRL today confirmed that the winner-takes-all season finale will be hosted at London's iconic Alexandra Palace on June 13th. Professional drone racing, if you're not aware, sees pilots compete in four "level" events that they hope will earn them enough points to qualify for the World Championship. Each racer is given a selection of custom-designed drones, which are crafted by DRL to ensure races focus on skill and not construction smarts, which beam back a first-person live feed to a VR-style headset.
On Monday, a UPS drone buzzed over fields in Lithia, Florida, to deliver a test package to a rural home. It was launched from the roof of a modified UPS truck and automatically returned to the vehicle after making its drop-off. The idea is that the driver can continue along his or her route while the drone makes a delivery that would otherwise be out of the way. "Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven," said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering, in a press release on Tuesday.