While Amazon and Google try to figure out how to use drones to deliver packages, a startup in London is focusing on a different service: running simple errands between two people. Say you're locked out of your apartment and need to get a key from your significant other. Instead of spending an hour on the train or fighting traffic to pick up the key, you can dial up a drone on your smartphone and send it across town.
"Speed is one of the biggest advantages," says Rohan Sinclair Luvaglio, CEO and founder of Bizzby, the company that created the new delivery service. "Our trials meant we could get across central London in under 10 minutes ... the emergency uses could be life-saving, if you think about delivering EpiPens, inhalers, or when there is an immediate medical need for medicine."
The drones also have a smaller carbon footprint than almost any other transportation. "The environmental advantages are clear, with the lack of pollution and reducing traffic," Luvaglio says. "Charging for the devices is very low powered."
After calling up a drone with the app—which would instantly dispatch it from Bizzby's warehouse—someone could watch in real time on their phone as the drone flies across the city, at heights of up to 400 feet. A camera on the drone automatically blurs out faces for privacy. When the drone arrives, the app unlocks it to release the delivery.
The drone can carry anything that weighs about a pound. "Our drones can carry unto 500 grams for the moment," explains Luvaglio. "This is to ensure maximum battery life and to enable our safety feature to return home should it encounter difficulties. As battery technology advances in line with safety and security, we believe the weight could be increased, but this would mean more challenges in legislation and further safety issues—the heavier it is, the more damage could be caused."
Bizzby, which currently has an on-demand app for services like housecleaning or repairs, sees the drones as a natural extension of their business. The biggest challenge—as with others attempting to use drones—will be getting government approval to fly.
"The U.S. has invested over $5 billion in an air traffic control system that doesn’t cater for drones," Luvaglio says. "Getting this on the political and regulators’ agenda, and making it work across countries, is incredibly challenging and something we’re pushing hard for. In the UK we are pushing for a new drone bill to be debated in parliament so legislation can be drafted."
As soon as they get approval, the drones will be ready to go.