With the number of commercial drones expected to soar into the millions in the next few years, operators whose unmanned aircraft malfunction or crash will be looking for places to get them fixed. Some repair shops authorized by manufacturers to fix smaller drones are already having trouble keeping up with demand. For several weeks, a California company had a note posted on its website referring specifically to the Phantom drone: "Temporarily not accepting any new repairs at this time due to high volume. The message was recently removed. While such waits might be frustrating for operators, it spells opportunity for repair shops keen to diversify and budding drone mechanics who could start lucrative careers repairing commercial drones without having to pay for a four-year college degree.
To paraphrase The Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman": "Oh yes, wait a minute Mister Droneman (Wait) Wait Mister Droneman. Please Mister Droneman, look and see (Oh yeah) If there's a letter in your bag for me" Drones are a short-range technology. Many of today's all-electric small quadcopters can only fly for 20-minute bursts before needing to swap batteries or plug in again. To make delivery drones work, the drones will either need to fly only short distances, or they'll need places to recharge along the way. For Amazon, which seems determined to lead the field in drone delivery, the answer might come from a recently approved patent: docking stations for drones, installed on existing streetlights.
Small drones are already effective weapons for urban warfare--when armed with miniature warheads, these stealthy spies can turn into lethal assassins. So far their biggest limitation is battery life, but Boeing's patent for a drone battle station sets out to overcome that. The aerospace giant's'Vehicle Base Station' resembles Amazon's proposed recharging stations on street lights, but with a different mission. John Vian, a research fellow at Boeing, says the station's main applications are likely to be civil and commercial--used for firefighting and search-and-rescue, for example--but the patent has a decidedly military slant. "The unmanned aerial vehicles may monitor for undesired activity… [which] may be the placement of an improvised explosive device in roadway."
In addition, the engineers sealed its most sensitive components inside a dry pressure compartment. They also painted its exposed parts with commercially available coatings that can protect them against the corrosive properties of saltwater. Both measures seem to have worked well during their experiments: the drone the researchers kept in sea water for two months showed no signs of damage. CRACUNS doesn't have any metal parts that can rust and malfunction in the water -- best of all, it's lightweight and doesn't cost much. Those factors make it a good candidate for big research or military operations.