With all the excitement about robotic inventory management in warehouses (pioneered by the giant amazon.com's $775 million purchase of Kiva Systems) and creating distribution fleets of automated delivery trucks, it is easy to forget about the 3D frontier right above us.
Previously, I have noted that automated passenger and cargo blimps in the future obviously benefit from direct point A to point B travel. These would be robotic transport solar panel covered airships that land on water to convert H20 into hydrogen fuel and then proceed to make scheduled stops unhindered by traffic or friction with hard surfaces. The renaissance in airships is mostly led in advances in superstrong yet light nano metamaterials, military's need for transport and perpetual high atmosphere surveillance, and the bourgeois desires for a return of long distance luxury travel that is different from either large yachts or a private jets.
|Kiva Robots that are replacing thousands|
of warehouse workers daily
However, on the inevitable road towards automation in many aspects of industry, there is a simpler and quicker route to automated air transport on a mass scale. Quadrotor quadrocopters delivering bags of goods straight to your door, roof, or even your window. This is the ultimate foot in the door towards highways in the sky for much heavier vehicles transporting objects such as people, refrigerators, etc. There is already a joke service (?) about the taco delivering quadrocopter in the San Francisco bay area. However, consider the amazingly versatile, high speed, and highly maneuverable capabilities of quadrocopters as demonstrated here, here, here, and below:
There are also Hexacopters capable of incredibly fast lift off and return. Watch it lift a Coca-Coca bottle around 9:30.
It is obvious that a larger version with a cutting edge battery can make a jump across the city rapidly to deliver a package and come back for recharging. Whether delivering fresh organic vegetables from a vertical farm in town, a pizza from a much larger automated pizza plant than the current pizza vending machines, or a certain size package from the postal service, possibilities for smooth rapid transport are endless. The booming private drone industry isn't going away. It somewhat reminds of the early popular rocketry and airplane experimentation in the early 20th century. Elon Musk equivalents are bound to come along to pull drone businesses together and cut out large swaths of the delivery human proles out of the equation. Clustering quadrotors vertically with a central cable for extra lift allows heavier object transport without taking too much horizontal space. We don't want a silly unwieldy looking contraptions like this just to deliver a television. Of course even that is preferable (along with quadrotor/small sleek blimp integration) if it saves on driver and energy costs and is able to deliver packages to rooftops of apartment buildings in a much more timely manner.
Here at The Pragmatist, automation is regarded as the greatest social disrupting force of the 21st century. Within automated production and distribution systems we see a total merger of the industrial and information age with corresponding questions about the problems it causes and potential long term consequences of these problems. As such, the faster automation and mechanization develops, the faster it forces collective thought on how to create a bridge between society of today and society of tomorrow.
Consider the neighborhood pizza place. IF quality Brooklyn oven style pizza (or whatever foodie preference of the day) is mass produced by an automated pizza making hub according to the standards of some new food equivalent of six sigma quality control and the finished product is hopped across the city in minutes by a quadrocopter, then, if history is any guide, a lot of service jobs go out of business. And that is the point. The beauty of automation is that even the demeaning service sector is rapidly encroached upon. This begins a massive social dialogue on what to do next as a species. Many in United States for instance don't realize that when manufacturing companies return factories back from China, these factories are massively automated. Even recent manufacturing villains like Taiwanese FoxConn now have plans for replacing their suicide prone proles with a massive investment into 1 million robot units.
But back to quadrocopter delivery systems. Besides delivering lunch to iron cutters working in high rise construction buildings, these quadrotor wonders can actually aid in the construction of skyscrapers themselves by delivering building materials rather than continuing reliance on standard assembly of cranes on the upper floors. Of course these quadrotor craft would be dramatically larger in scale. Considering they are more aerodynamically stable and reliable than traditional heavy lift helicopters, large industrial quadrocopter lifters (modular so they can link up and form geometric chains when flying) appear like the they can aid in logistics for rapid construction efforts as being pioneered currently in places like China. We're familiar with the incredibly fast relay postal service that existed within the Mongol empire where a chain of race horse outposts was operated. One race horse rode to exhaustion and another picked up the package. A similar relay system for large automated industrial quadrotor vehicles can be implemented very rapidly and cheaply. Any parking lot can be a relay and a recharge station. Once again, the distance between relays is only limited by nanotechnology within best available lightweight industrial batteries to power these machines. Pools and ponds providing hydrogen for fuel cells are other potential rest stops.
You find it demeaning that a foreign immigrant drives a bicycle through the rain to deliver your food for a 2 dollar tip? Then call your lame do nothing congressman and ask for investment in automated quadrotor air delivery.