Freight Shipping Drones: Six Modes That are Automated

smart cars

Smart cars communicated on highways

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is credited with building the first automobile in 1769. In the almost 250 years of self-propelled cars, trucks, trains, and planes, the industry has dramatically changed.

The biggest transformation of this industry is occurring right now. What used to be an expensive cargo shipment across the world will soon be an automated, inexpensive and a more reliable delivery.

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established an official classification system:

  • Level 0: The driver completely controls the vehicle at all times.
  • Level 1: Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control or automatic braking.
  • Level 2: At least two controls can be automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control in combination with lane keeping.
  • Level 3: The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control and provides a “sufficiently comfortable transition time” for the driver to do so.
  • Level 4: The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. As this vehicle would control all functions from start to stop, including all parking functions, it could include unoccupied cars.

The pros and cons of automation are endless. Advantages include, fewer collisions, speed control, ans space between cars is constant. Disadvantages include, cyber security, liability for damage, and loss of driving related jobs. The ‘Economists’ has a debate that goes into much more depth.

Now that you understand that you understand automated vehicles, lets take a look at the different automated vehicles that are in production.

 

Cars

google car

Google’s self driving car

Autonomous cars sense their surroundings with such techniques as radar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Some autonomous vehicles update their maps based on sensory input, allowing the vehicles to keep track of their position even when conditions change or when they enter uncharted environments.

Numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototypes of autonomous vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Vislab from University of Parma, Oxford University and Google.

Self driving cars will offer individuals a means of transportation that is completely autonomous.

Quad Copters

amazon drone

Amazon Prim Air

Amazon has been developing multirotor Miniature Unmanned Air Vehicle (Miniature UAV) technology intended to utilize GPS to autonomously fly individual packages to customers’ doorsteps within 30 minutes of ordering.

Instead of having to wait days for a shipment to travel by plain, train or even boat, drones will fly directly to your house when you order it. Drones similar to these will allow for instant shipments of packages.

Planes

boeing plane

Autopilot control panel of a Boeing 737

Plane automation already exists. Fly-by-wire technology has replaced the mechanical link between the pilot and the plane’s engines and control surfaces with a computer..Any fly-by-wire plane can be an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The controls are already digital and everything is done electronically, so you don’t need a person in there to push a hydraulic actuator.

Right now the main job for the pilot is to do the instant decision-making which could mean life or death when you’re 37,000 feet in the air. In order to run a plane with out a pilot, a computer would need to be aware of its surroundings and be able to plot a new path that is not disruptive to other users of the skies.

Trains

subway train

Automated subway train

Many modern systems have operations such as route setting and train regulation carried out by computers. Automatic Train Operation (ATO) is a device used to help automate operations of trains and it is used in many of them. Most systems elect to maintain a driver (train operator) to mitigate risks associated with failures or emergencies.

Trains are the easiest mode to automate because they mostly go in a straight line and don’t require complex thinking. Therefore, they are the most common mode of automation.

Cargo Drones

Rolls-Royce’s Blue Ocean development team is prototyping Drone ships that would be safer, cheaper and less polluting for the $375 billion shipping industry that carries 90 percent of world trade. Captains would stay on dry land and use control centers to command hundreds of crew-less ships. These vessels would be loaded with containers from front to back, without a bridge where the crew would live.

 

Garbage Trucks

garbage truck

Side loader truck with an automated arm

Garbage trucks are a mode that you wouldn’t normally think about in terms of automation. They are in every town and city and their systems are very complex. Many of them are also automated in some way.

The front loader, for example is equipped with automated forks on the front which the driver aligns with sleeves on the waste container. So, the actual picking up of the garbage is done by the driver. However, side loaders are much more common. They use a special carts with a special lift. These trucks only require one worker and the whole process is autonomous.

Trucks of the future could become fully automated from the driving to the pickup, which would reduce time and cost dramatically. Mercedes recently began prototyping the first self driven truck.

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