Domino’s Pizza is experimenting with the idea of delivering your pizza to you via drones (instead of drivers). The “DomiCopter” is a manned drone that was created through a partnership between a digital media company called T and Biscuits and a company called Aerosight that makes Heli-cam drones that are designed to be used for filming and photography. Both are UK companies.
There is potential that the “DomiCopter” could turn out to be nothing more than a way to attract attention to Domino’s Pizza. (In other words, it might be just a PR stunt). In the United States, there are Federal Aviation Administration rules that specifically do not allow companies to fly an experimental drone for commercial purposes.
The Oppikoppi Festival, which takes place in South Africa, is intending to use drones to deliver beer to people who are in a crowd at the music festival. The idea is to prevent people from having to walk away from the stage where a band is playing whenever they want to buy a beer. Instead, the drones are supposed to drop the beer from the sky to the person who ordered it.
It will be interesting to see how that works out. Drones that deliver beer. Drones that deliver pizza. What’s next?
The Oppikoppi Festival has been taking place in South Africa every year since 1995. It is a big music festival. For this year, the 19th year of the festival, they are going to be trying something new to help distribute beer to the people who attend.
According to HypeBot the festival will make use of small drones that will deliver beer directly to the person who ordered it. He or she won’t have to walk away from the music, and stand in a long line, in order to purchase a beer.
Instead, a small, 8-propeller helicopter drone, that has been loaded with beer, will fly over the festival and locate the person who ordered a beer. The drone will then drop a single beer, which has been attached to a small parachute. Use your smartphone to order the beer, and stay put. The beer will come to you!
This year, the Oppikoppi festival planners are intending to have people hand guide the drones. In other words, the drones won’t be functioning without a human guiding them along behind the scenes. If things work out well, there is potential that other large, outdoor, music festivals may decide to use some beer delivery drones.
Drones are unmanned flying vehicles which are controlled by operators from thousands of miles away. They are used extensively in Afghanistan to track the Taliban’s activities. There has been increase talk among law enforcement in the United States that using drones might be useful in fighting crime. There is a Federal mandate that would permit drones to be used in US airspace. There are many questions involving the use of drones including privacy rights, lack of search warrants …. There are also technical questions. Right now the biggest problem that the DHS and the FAA are facing involving drones are jammers which don’t control the drones but simply jam the signal. This is the way the Iranians insist they were able to bring down a drone in 2011. Although that is still disputed by the US who insist it was operator error and not Iranian jamming that caused the drone to land off course.
However solving the jamming problem maybe easy compared to the problem of spoofing. Spoofing is where the drone is actually controlled by a third-party. In order for spoofing to be successful the drones GPS system must be hacked. That is what the University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering did under Assistant Professor Todd Humphreys when it hijacked a drone using $1,000 worth of equipment and custom software. These drones were using unencrypted software that the University of Texas team was able to hack. Their signal was more powerful than the GPS signal that the drone was receiving from the satellite that was originally controlling it. They were able to over ride that GPS signal sending the drone where they wanted to. As you can image this is a huge potential problem. Imagine what would happen if a terrorist group was able to hack a drone and send it where ever they wanted it to. They could control it from anywhere and sending it crashing into buildings with no risk to themselves.
Right now the DHS is still working on the jamming problem through the Patriot Watch and the Patriot Shield programs but the programs are underfunded and haven’t even started looking into the spoofing problem. Before we allow drones to fly above US cities we might want to find a solution to both jamming and spoofing first.