Study suggests drones could quadruple their range – by taking the bus

One of the reasons why we still do not see the common shipping drones in use lies in the fact that they can only fly about half an hour per battery charge. However, according to a new study, their reach can be extended if they take a ride on the bus.

Headed by Associate Professor Mykel Kochenderfer and Marco Pavone, a team at Stanford University began to create a computer model where drones were dispatching in northern San Francisco and Washington, D.C.. These models incorporate the existing public bus network, with up to 200 drones per city delivering as many as 5,000 packages.

Study suggests drones could quadruple their range – by taking the bus

Each plane starts at a depot, where a package is loaded into it. If the goal is within the battery range of the depot, the drone can fly directly to and from that location. However, if the drone flies to the stop where he lands on a bus that covers most of the distance. The bus reaches the stop within range of destinations as soon. And the drone flies there.

As there are more than one depot in each city, each drone can return to its original depots, or take a trip to different depot where another package is waiting for it. The model determines which drones should make deliveries, and orders. In all cases, the system is aimed at minimizing the amount of time required for each shipment.

Consequently, the longest delivery time in northern San Francisco is under an hour, while it’s less than two hours in Washington. In addition, in both cities, drones are able to multiply the range of their effective flights.

“Drone delivery is the future, ” says Kochenderfer. “By using ground transit wisely, drones have potential to provide safe, clean, and cost-effective transportation.”