Bob Dohse


This conversation is closed.

Rural mail delivery with automated drones

Andreas Raptopoulos inspired the TED audience with an idea for drone delivery systems in rural Africa.

Could that idea replace USPS mail delivery in rural America?

How might that be implemented, what are the difficulties, and how might private industry help make that a practical reality?

Closing Statement from Bob Dohse

TED closed this Conversation prematurely. I set it up for 4 weeks, not 40 hours !!!

What happened, TED ???

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    Dec 3 2013: I think we can also considering using the upcoming self driving cars to deliver mails in rural places.
    • Dec 3 2013: motor bikes very small toy like cars etc. I like it.
    • Dec 3 2013: Bored rural teenagers. Try to engineer anything that can withstand that threat. This is why we need grownups actually handling the equipment, not dozens or hundreds of miles away.
  • Sarah T

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    Dec 3 2013: It's an interesting concept to think about. I don't think it's practical in urban areas. The drones amazon is using are much too small to be practical for mass distribution. It does make sense, in my opinion, to replace postal deliveries with drones for remote locations that are difficult to access by car. For example, Paradise, WA is actually the lodge at Mt. Rainier. It has it's own zipcode. It is remote, a long way from anywhere else needing delivery, and the roads in winter are treacherous. This makes a great candidate for drones. So do a lot of remote areas in Alaska that currently already rely on mail planes to reach them.
    But places like New York? Or even Seattle? You'd either need a lot of drones, or bigger drones...neither seems like a particularly good idea in urban spaces.
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    Dec 3 2013: For mail delivery having the drones get the mail from a mail truck that travels from area to area would work better than them going all the way to the post office. Plus with a mail truck/drone hybrid system if something happens to a drone, it is known right away and there would be GPS coordinates to its last know location.

    P.S. a mail drone-truck could have a dozen delivery drones and a rescue drone to pick up any wayward delivery drone.

    P.P.S. and don’t forget obstruction of USPS mail delivery is a federal crime, and not too many would want to risk breaking federal law.
  • Dec 3 2013: Are all you folks from the city? How come nobody mentioned the dog? You know, that huge animal with big teeth that attacks anything that walks onto the property. Who is going to repair the octocopter after "Ole Yeller" rips the blades off and buries it somewhere out back in the yard along with your other toys you just bought? Believe me, Ole Yeller will hear it coming a long time before you do and be chewing on them carbon fiber blades in no time, yum yum, nothing like a little carbon fiber to clean your teeth. He will even give it a sporting chance say two feet off the ground before he runs it down, leaps into the air and bites down hard and starts thrashing it from side to side all in one flowing smooth operation as both dog and machine crash to the ground where Ole Yeller makes sure it is dead.
    Good boy, you did just what you were trained to do!
  • Dec 3 2013: The post office could go back to 1862 when they did not deliver and everyone went to the post office to pick up their mail. I believe that the Philadelphia Post Master could not stand seeing the wives standing, waiting in front of the Post Office to get the mail to see if their husband had been killed in battle. So he started home delivery.

    And I think it is very viable to deliver mail by drone - would have to be a larger drone than amazon is projecting (10 mile range only) and if it is electrical, we will need a break through in battery or electric generation to make it work. Otherwise, we would have to use gas engines. We also need FAA rules changed.
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    Dec 2 2013: Well on its way.
    Amazon just announced a new deliver service called prime air that uses drones that look like toy choppers.
    Pending changes in FAA regulation this vision could become reality by 2015.
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      Dec 2 2013: If Jeff Bezos thinks it can be profitable for Amazon, then there must be viability in the idea and the cost of operation must be relatively modest.
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        Dec 3 2013: Amazon CEO Bezos, is in my opinion a marketing genius. Just prior to Cyber Monday he shows up on 60 minutes and gets 15 minutes of air time during prime time to market Amazon ... period. It costs about $100,000 for a 30 second ad on the show and he got 15 minutes for free ... about 2 million bucks worth. Plus it was the headline on MSN news, AOL News, and Yahoo. The story made every local TV station, etc ... He said that delivery by drones could occur by 2015 ... I don't think so but who am I to say. Drones do not show up on radar ... that make for very dangerous local flying. My guess is that this needs a lot of work and at the soonest 2020 ... if ever ... my opinion.

        In the meantime Amazon is the word of the day and no need to pay for ads for a while. One heck of a marketing coup.
  • Dec 3 2013: Yeah, add that to bored rural teenagers with firearms. See how long it lasts.
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    Dec 3 2013: Massimo Banzi mentioned Matternet in his 2012 talk on sparking open source imagination using his Arduino motherboard ...
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    Dec 2 2013: The largest expense of the US Postal Service is labor (including medical and retirement benefits) ... labor is around 85% of the USPS budget.

    Rural delivery requires much more driving per delivery, and labor costs rise proportionate to the distance between residences.