Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Drones Deliver Mail and Packages In France

December 30, 2014 - When Benjamin Franklin was postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 (way before he was an American revolutionary), he probably never imagined letters and packages being delivered in flying machines. "Air mail" is old news to us some 200 years later, and no longer considered special. In 2014, France's postal service LaPoste is testing mail delivery by six-propeller drones, which are unmanned flying robots.

Drone by GeoPost for package delivery in France
Six-propeller drone by GeoPost can deliver
or medicines to remote areas in France 
 "This week, LaPoste, France’s postal service, announced that its package-delivery subsidiary, GeoPost, had successfully completed initial tests of a service to deliver lightweight mail and packages via drone. The tests were conducted by CEEMA or the Centre d’√Čtudes et d’Essai pour Mod√®les Autonomes (the Center for Autonomous Model Testing and Studies), which is part of the company helping to build the drone." ~ VentureBeat.com

That's cool, but only in concept. The average French citizen is still a long way from receiving mail via drone. VentureBeat notes that in recent tests, "the drone demonstrated it could reliably carry a package up to 2 kilograms in ranges up to 1.2 kilometers." But then again, this project is still very experimental and not intended to replace large-scale mail delivery-by-humans.

Robots in the sky may not soon be delivering packages to remote French villas. "The drone delivery possibilities are still be explored at this point," says  Slashgear, "but the idea behind it all is that rural and otherwise remote locations -- or regions temporarily blocked by things like flooding -- can have needed medical supplies and such delivered at faster rates than by vehicle."

Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin went
postal years ago
The French drone tests were conducted "in collaboration with the company Atechsys at La Poste's special test site in the Var, southern France, used a six-propeller drone able to carry loads of up to 16 inches by 12 inches by eight inches in size and weighing up to nine pounds in all weathers and terrains within a 12-mile radius," reports The Telegraph (UK).

For the near future, French drones will deliver mail only in rural areas. French law does not allow drones to fly over heavily populated areas.

French drone could deliver parcels to remote areas
French drone delivers parcels to remote areas
Limited though the drones may be, this is actually a great idea, even if the drones do not seem suited to replace human postal carriers on any large scale. But the real purpose, says The Telegraph, "is to be able to fly the drones in remote areas or places difficult to reach by car – up very steep roads, down hillsides and areas with few roads and over water." GeoPost says the mechanical mailmen can "reach isolated zones very rapidly," which would be valuable for "urgent medical needs or blood deliveries."

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has nightmarish budget problems, and unpaid robots delivering the mail might seem like an idea whose time has come. President Obama has said that the USPS should replace human mail carriers with drones or face being shut down.

“Postal Carriers in the United States bring home an hourly wage of $18.25 to $25.82 per hour,” Obama said at a conference in July. “These men and women bring home anywhere from $37,950.00 to $53,700.00 annually. It is no wonder the price of our postage is on a consistent increase.”

“Persons living in the United States today cannot afford to feed their families,” Obama continued. “While they are stuck working on minimum wage salaries. Why should the government be paying so much to mail carriers, when their neighbors cannot afford to eat?” He adds that he feels it is a waste for the Federal Government to be paying these workers this much money when a drone from WIT can do the same job and cost a lot less to operate."

Obama did not address the fact that humans replaced by drones would no longer be able to afford to feed their own families because their neighbors' welfare checks are being delivered by robots.

Also See:
France's La Poste develops drone to deliver parcels Telegraph (UK)
Obama Gives USPS Ultimatum To Deliver Mail By Drones Wyoming Institute of Technology 
FAA Poised To Miss Deadline For Drone Regulations Daily Caller
No Roads? There's a drone for that Andreas Raptopoulos