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Article posted Jan 09 2013, 6:12 AM Category: Science/Technology Source: Techdirt Print

Move Over 'TacoCopter': Here Comes The 'Internet Of Drones'

by Glyn Moody

As we know, the Internet works by breaking digital information up into IP packets which are then routed independently over the network, and then re-assembled at their destination. Anything made up of 0s and 1s can be sent anywhere with an Internet connection in this way, but that isn't much good for physical objects.

It's true that we are fast approaching the day when we will be able to use a 3D scanner to send a digital file representing an object across the Internet so that it can then be printed at the destination. But that only works for simple, fungible items like cups or replacement parts, and is useless if you want to deliver a particular, personal item rather than just a generic copy.

To do that, we need an Internet of drones:
A short distance drone delivery service built on an open protocol. Think short haul logistics.

It's a system that will explode in a way that is very similar to the way the Internet grew up -- where connections were bought by individuals and installed one modem and IP address at a time, and where the early providers are local geeks with shelves full of modems and an expensive T-1 lines.

It's an approach that uses "uncontrolled airspace" and incremental purchases of cheap, standards compliant pads/drones to roll itself out (very similar to the way the Internet was able to piggy back on the old telephone system).

As a result of this open approach and decentralization, it's something that could grow VERY fast.
If you're still unsure how this would work in practice, the post by John Robb quoted above goes on to spell out the details for a simple example. The bottom line for returning a forgotten smartphone to its owner 30 miles away:
Costs? Probably less than $0.25 per 10 mi. or so. So, about $0.75 in this instance. Time? An hour or so.
Of course, this is just a generalization of an idea we discussed back in March of last year, the so-called "TacoCopter", but taken to the next level, modelled on the Internet's IP packets. As we pointed out then, it's a great idea with lots of practical problems, mostly regulatory ones. Arguably the far greater potential of the Internet of drones concept makes the argument for loosening up those restrictions to permit innovation in this area even more compelling.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+





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