Apr 06, 2020 Aerospace & Defense

Hope For All The Places You Cannot See and Some Safety Stories

By Andreea Volusincu


Today, on an ecommerce website, I caught a glimpse of the produce rack of the grocery store I go to every day. For the last five years I’ve been going to this store, but did not know they do home deliveries. This is a small neighborhood shop, and still, big misjudgment on my side. Regardless, I saw it, and got nostalgic. I thought I haven’t been there in almost a month. I thought about my daily routine and how certain places dictate our sense of normalcy. But hope is not lost.

Although brunch on Sunday after grocery shopping is not an option anymore, brunch on Sunday is still pretty much the routine at my home. That’s because we find new ways to accomplish the same tasks in a new world. The transition puts pressure on workflows and expectations. Everything is the same, but different.

But it's often challenging to handle new workflows with old infrastructure. In my situation, I had almost completed the order, but then I thought to go and check one last time on the essentials that we were missing. A 30 minute delay for that last order click pushed my delivery date estimation by four days. It was already a 2 week estimation to begin with. Managing expectations is the theme now.

Online sales of consumer packaged goods rose 91 percent year over year in the US during the week of March 9, according to Nielsen. At the same time, UPS, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and DHL suspended their normal service guarantee of a refund if a delivery arrives late. Nonessential orders can face delays up to a month.

The new setting creates new habits, or rather, adjusts old ones. It is expected the growth of online shoppers to remain the same even after the initial purchases. The next couple of years are critical for retaining online shoppers. This puts great pressure on retailers to ensure positive customer experiences, including delivery delays.

There is a wave of new tech and new solutions envisioned for supporting the complete redesign of supply chains. From robots to last-mile delivery drones, a common thread appears. The autonomous systems future that was already on its way, steps into overdrive. The stakes are not just around packages, but a new mobility concept that is reliable, safe and operates undisrupted in any situation.

The acceleration trend affects every area – from developing autonomous systems and applications, to supporting the compute capacity surge in silicon platforms, and integrating the system into the world it will operate in.

For delivery drones, that is the common airspace. And so it begins. Although historically, regulations have lagged behind technological jumps, regulators are tirelessly working to close the gap. From new proposals, to public consultations and directly working with autonomous tech leads inside primes and new mobility startups, government and industry are working together to enable innovation in transportation.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been expanding its research activities in the field of drones. This past March, the agency published the new access rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft. Other projects address the risks of potential collision between drones and manned aircraft.

In the U.S., the FAA is working to enhance safety in the skies. The agency just received more than 53,000 comments on a recent proposal, the Remote ID notice. At the same time, the ramp up in Part 135 certifications for carriers continues. Last year was a pivotal one for that.

Several Part 135 certifications were awarded. From UPS Flight Forward, to Wing Aviation, FAA is working to accommodate the commercial operation of small drones that carry packages. And the effect spans throughout the ecosystem.

UPS Flight Forward now works with CVS Health to develop a variety of drone delivery use cases, including business-to-consumer operating models. The program will include delivery of prescriptions and retail products to the homes of CVS Pharmacy customers from its retail stores, in addition to other potential use cases from its other business units.

The FAA has long recognized that the enhanced safety achieved using an unmanned aircraft is in the public interest. So these new delivery operations, regardless of what propelled them forward, will only add to the historical data that can be used to create that assurance and build confidence with the public.

Wind River is just very excited to be part of this new wave of designs. We are closely following the developments in this space to advise customers on what comes next. In the latest episode of “The Impact of Unmanned Systems,” Paul Hart, Chief Technology Officer, Curtiss-Wright and Gareth Noyes, Chief Strategy Officer, Wind River, talk to John McHale, editorial director for Military Embedded Systems, about the challenges of getting drones to fly in civilian space, from a safety certification standpoint. Check out the latest podcast episode and hear how new operators must comply with regulatory requirements both on a device level and on an air management level.

Remember that even in these transitional times, the supply chain never sleeps. The day is coming when the current limitations of transportation and logistics will be totally overwritten. Regulatory advancements, progress in sense-and-avoid, beyond line of sight, geofencing, and more are opening the door to expanded and safer operations. This will bring you virtually closer to your neighborhood store.

Follow these developments on “The Impact of Unmanned Systems” podcast with Wind River.

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