Don't look now, but Canada might just join the likes of France and the UK in ushering in the courier drone era. Transport Canada has approved its first drone test range near the tiny village of Foremost, Alberta, clearing the way for Drone Delivery Canada to launch a robotic cargo service as soon as late 2017. The roughly 927 square miles will help DDC prove that its drones can haul goods across long distances using satellite guidance. Tests with the company's early partners should start sometime in the first quarter of the year. The drone delivery system could be more important for Canada than it would be for other nations.
Delivery drones have more than a few challenges, not the least of which is dropping off the package in a convenient place. Do you really want to head out to your yard to collect a box? You might not have to. Advanced Tactics has successfully tested delivery with a drone, the Panther sUAS Air/Ground Robot, that can both fly and drive up to your door. When it's too dangerous or costly to travel by air, the machine just has to touch down and wheel its way to its destination.
The future arrived on Monday, wrapped in a tortilla. Chipotle burritos were delivered via drone to waiting Virginia Tech students in the first of a series of tests that could be giving foodies a taste of things to come. The drone delivery arrived just before 1 p.m., according to Roanoke Times journalist Jacob Demmett, who managed to capture the landmark moment on video. The flying burrito tests were not open to the public, presumedly so the recipients wouldn't have to share their bounty with other hungry students. The burrito drone descended to about 10 feet over a grass patch before lowering a large white package to the ground on a string.
Amazon apparently won't be the only company offering drone delivery service: The United Postal Service could follow suit. UPS announced Tuesday it had successfully tested out a drone for residential delivery, a press release said. The company worked with Workhorse Group, a manufacturing company that created both the drone and the electric UPS car used to test the flight. The test drone successfully flew to its designated location, dropped off the package and then proceeded on its delivery route. The drone tested could carry up to 10 pounds.
When I first visited Zipline, two years ago, the startup was operating out of a pile of shipping containers, in a cow-filled field on the Pacific Coast, in Northern California. Now, when I round the corner on the dirt road leading to the startup's new test range, I'm met by what looks like a prototype lunar base dotted with stretched white tents and hulking containers. Tall metal trusses point into the sky, topped by spiky metal ball-shaped lightning conductors. There is also a row of "Zipline Parking Only" signs, although I haven't seen anything but cows for miles around. This is where Zipline is testing what it calls the fastest commercial delivery drone in the world.