Do Walmart and Target Have a Secret Weapon to Beat Amazon on Drone Delivery?

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We all know that Amazon is the clear leader in online sales and that it is also pushing hard to make drones deliveries a reality. It looks like they have the upper hand, especially when you consider that their nearest rivals in online sales—Walmart and Target—are far behind them in developing drone delivery.

But Walmart and Target have a secret weapon that could, if properly used, give them an advantage against the empire of Jeff Bezos. What is that secret weapon, you ask? Their stores!

Both Walmart and Target have thousands of store and distribution centers throughout the nation that could easily accommodate a drone delivery center.

The good folks over has Business Insider Intelligence have put together some interesting info using data from users of The Weather Company App. They found that 49% of users of the weather app live within 6 miles of a Walmart store and that 47% of users live within 6 miles of a Target store. In both cases, around 15% of purchases these individuals made where under $10 and likely would be light enough to deliver by drones. Walmart’s own numbers are even better. On a recent blog the mega retailer said that 70% of the US population lives within 5 miles of a Walmart store.

In comparison only 44% of people live within 20 miles of an Amazon fulfillment center, beyond the range of current drone delivery technology.

There are a lot of ifs here, but if either Walmart or Target can realize this potential and get in the drone delivery game, things could heat up real quick!

Drone Deliveries Move Forward in China

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One of China’s largest eCommerce business, JD.com, is at it again. In the next three years the company plans to open 150 drone launch facilities in China’s southwestern Sichuan province in an effort to create a local drone delivery network. Sichuan’s mountainous terrain has for centuries made travel and delivery a difficulty to isolated rural communities, now drones can change that.

Drone Dossier has reported on JD’s work before. Since June of 2016 they have been making live drone deliveries in four test areas throughout China. They are also working directly with Chinese authorities to set up a drone traffic management systems in the areas they operate.

JD has a variety of drones to deliver packages with the largest supposedly able to lift upwards of 50 kg and they are developing ones that can lift around 500 kg! JD’s CEO Richard Liu recently said that drone deliveries would reduce the costs of shipping freight by 70%, compared to conventional truck delivery.

JD is also streamlining the way its uses drones, deciding not to make deliveries to individual address, but instead deliver to one of the thousands of local distribution centers that is has both in cities and in rural areas.

The video below shows JD’s concept. In it a man orders diapers online from a local village. The order then goes to the nearest drone-capable distribution center which packs up the diapers and sends them to the local village via an autonomous drone. Notice that the JD drone in this video is a tri-rotor drone and it appears (3:34) that the box has hooks that latch unto the drones chassis itself to secure the package during transit. The drone drops the package off at another smaller JD distribution center where a local employee picks it up and literally walks it over a few houses to the guy who order the diapers online.

Drone Crash Compilation

The folks over at PC Magazine have put together a list of their top 11 drone crashes (which they call disasters…jeez guys calm down!). There list has some of our favorites including the guy who flew into the Seattle Space Needle and the video shown below of a guy who made the maxim effort to save his drone from a watery death after a battery failure!

A lot of these are crashes are the result of pilot error or stupidity, but some do show legitimate dangers when drones fail and crash because of battery failures or naturally caused reasons like birds and weather.

If you want to see more crashes check out the video below. Our favorites are at minute mark  2:28 when a bird takes out a drone, minute mark 4:51 when a pumpkin fired out of a cannon hits a drone and the scary moment at minute mark 10:06 when a terrible pilot crashes a drone through a window unto someone’s desk!

Remember to be smart and safe when you fly!

Canon Drone?

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World famous camera company Canon is making the jump into the drone world! Last September the Japanese camera maker partnered with Prodrone Co. to produce a drone that will be branded under the Canon name and be equipped with Canon cameras.

This week Canon started to show off their new PD6E2000-AW-CJ1 drone (please change the name Canon, please!) on their Japanese website. The drone is supposedly designed for search and rescue operations and is equipped with Canon’s high-end ME20F-SH camera.

There is no official announcement on when the drone will be available for sale, but the rumors suggest that when it does it will be in the $20,000-$40,000 price range…ouch!

Canon is the latest camera maker that is taking a stab at drones and they better hope they learn from the mistakes of companies like GoPro. According to reports, Canon hopes to sell $4.5 million worth of drones by 2020.

Increasing Number of Drones Cause Issues for Airports

Every week there are news stories about near collisions of planes (usually coming in to land) and drones. A few days ago there was a near miss as a plane from Paris came in to land at Dulles Airport in Virginia. In that case the drone came within 100 feet of colliding with the plane.

Also this week, the Minister of Defense in Taiwan said the security officers can shoot down any drones that are found violating airspace above airports in response to the growing number of unauthorized drones incursions.

In the USA, the FAA reports that in 2016 there was a 50% increase of pilots spotting drones compared to the year before. The reason is simple, there is a lot more drones out there. FAA estimates that 4.8 million drones will be sold in 2017 (2.3 million consumer and 2.5 million commercial). This works out for 21% growth in sales of consumer drones and a 317% growth in commercial drones.

But the problem just isn’t the increase of drones, it is also a problem with drone operators. Some are not careful and do not consider airspace restrictions of the areas they are flying in. If you are new drone owner, please put safety first. Here is a great website to start at.

Nevada is Seeding Clouds With Drones

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Nevada is not a State that is known for rain, but local officials are looking to change that. Earlier this week State officials said they are within weeks of making a major breakthrough on their efforts to use drones to seed clouds.

Last April the Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems worked with the Governors Office of Economic development to be the first to successfully test a cloud-seeding payload with a fixed-wing drone.

Ever since the State has been getting interest from authorities and companies all around the world. Using drones to seed clouds has a lot of potential benefits, but in the end it really is about getting drones that are big enough to carry bigger payloads to make this a more feasible project on a large scale.

Keep a look out for any upcoming news, the team here at Drone Dossier is curious what this ‘major breakthrough’ will be.

NFL Pro Bowl ‘Drone Drop’

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For this year’s Pro Bowl festivities the NFL has introduced a ‘ WR Drone Drop’. The competition is simple enough, a football is dropped from increasing height by a drone until a winner emerges. Each competitor is given two chance from each height to catch the football.

This year the winner ended up being Odell Beckham Jr. who as able to catch a football dropped from 125 feet. At that height the football was wobbling, curving and traveling at over 50 MPH. If you are interested the highlights from the competition are on YouTube.

It’s definitely a gimmick, but a pretty cool gimmick as far as the folks here at the Drone Dossier are concerned. It might be too early to say, but we hope this is the beginning of the NFL embracing drones more openly. Already, teams like the Dallas Cowboys are using drones for stadium inspections and to film their practices.