IBM Patent Extends Drone Delivery Range

Armonk, N.Y.- 28 Apr 2017: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that its inventors have been granted a patent for transferring packages between drones during flight. The invention described in US Patent No. 9,561,852: In flight transfer of packages between aerial drones helps to extend the range of drones that are delivering packages from a warehouse to a customer’s home. IBM inventors developed this patented system using their supply chain expertise to enable precise delivery services to customers using drones.

IBM Inventors Patent Invention for Transferring Packages between Aerial Drones

Drawing of IBM patent, which could extend drone delivery range for shipping. (Credit: IBM)

Drones are starting to be used to transport packages to customer locations, but there are still numerous challenges to this delivery method such as: limited flight range, theft of unattended packages once delivered, and a lack of delivery network optimization. This invention can help to mitigate these challenges by providing in-flight drone-to-drone package transfers to extend package delivery range.

For example, a customer expecting a package could dispatch a personal drone to receive and securely deliver the package to the customer’s home. Drone delivery network optimization could be provided to autonomous drones via the communications link described in the patent.

“Drones have the potential to change the way businesses operate and by leveraging machine learning, drones could change ecommerce,” said Sarbajit Rakshit, IBM Master Inventor and co-inventor on the patent. “Our inventor team is focused on improving how the most valuable cargo is delivered globally. This could create opportunities such as managing drones to deliver postal packages and medicine in developing countries via the most direct route.”

IBM inventors have patented other inventions related to drones and drone-enabling technologies. However, this is just one aspect of IBM’s Supply Chain and Logistics expertise. IBM manages supply chains for clients on a worldwide basis using IBM Watson Supply Chain.

For more information about IBM’s patent leadership, please visit:

Contact(s) information

Chris Blake
IBM Media Relations – Research
1 (415) 613-1120


IBM Inventors Patent Invention for Transferring Packages between Aerial Drones

Drawing of IBM patent, which could extend drone delivery range for shipping. (Credit: IBM)

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On – 28 Apr, 2017 By

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From snail mail to smart mail: How tracking packages is going high-tech – Holy Kaw!

As consumers turn to online shopping in droves, it’s time for delivery to get the same upgrade.

Find out how technology could soon be changing the way we receive our packages in this infographic from MailHaven.

Via MailHaven.

Posted by Kate Rinsema


On – 30 Apr, 2017 By Kate Rinsema

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Drones that pass packages to each other could be the future of home delivery

IBM Research announced a new patent that could someday allow delivery drones to transfer packages in mid-air, which could greatly extend delivery range.

On – 28 Apr, 2017 By Tim Rodgers

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Watch This Amazon Drone Deliver It’s First Package In The US


19 SHARES, 4 points

Source: Business Insider

Amazon Prime Air conducted a successful drone delivery in the UK just a few months ago. Amazon just performed the first public demonstration of the Amazon Prime in the US, and it was captured on video.

The demonstration was made at the Amazon’s MARS robotics conference in Palm Springs, and the video is not the promotional one that Amazon released for its UK delivery. This one was recorded by an observer. Reportedly, Amazon Prime Air delivered sunscreen.

Watch the video for yourself:

On – 27 Mar, 2017 By Aayesha Arif

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Should Package Delivery Be Automated With Drones? A Look At The Pros And Cons

This story appears in the issue of . Subscribe

What are the pros and cons of using delivery drones? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Bonnie Foley-Wong, CEO Pique Ventures, on Quora:

Thinking about the friends and acquaintances of mine that have worked in jobs requiring little or no experience, the types of jobs included mailroom, postal delivery or related jobs, cashier, construction, and driving taxis. My father immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong with a college education, but without enough recognizable qualifications and found stable employment fixing the machines that processed mail. I met a 3-D designer in Calgary, who had just lost his job as a result of oil prices collapsing and oil industry layoffs last year. He was driving a taxi to continue to provide for his family.

I know people who got jobs in banks decades ago as entry-level tellers. My mother, who similarly to my father, immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s with a college education, got her first job in Canada as a bank teller. She returned to work in a bank in the late 1980s after taking a long break to raise her children, thanks to skills re-training programs. She managed to find a job as a back-office clerk in the foreign exchange department until she was forced into early retirement due to automation of her job.

To people with qualifications and choices of employment, these roles may appear to be repetitive and a waste of a person’s mind and talents. There may be some truth to that. But sometimes they were also the difference between a job right away or months of rejections, the difference between poor and getting by, the difference between making rent and not. As more and more of these types of jobs are replaced by machines and automated, an unseen part of the social safety net disappears and is either difficult to replace or our economies and societies have not been quick enough to replace them.

There are pros and cons for individual actors involved in automation of delivery services. The overall impact on society and the economy depends upon other factors.

If jobs are automated with all other things remaining equal, it’s likely to have a negative impact on the US economy as a whole because one small, but resource-rich segment of the population will prosper and a larger, resource-scarce segment will suffer. That kind of imbalance, in the long-run, is not good for societies and economies.

We cannot deny that the pursuit of technological innovation is not happening and will not continue to happen. Is automation necessary? No, it’s a choice. Is it better? Again, no, it’s a choice about how we spend our time. On a very basic level, with my toddler, I notice the difference. Automation means plant her in front of the TV. It occupies her for hours on end and she looks like a zombie. The non-automated option is reading with her, building things together, running around outside together, dancing and making up songs together. Is it repetitive and mind-numbing? No, but it is hard staying a step head of her creatively. Is it rewarding? You bet it is. I digress, but it does show the benefit of looking at automation and technology from another perspective. Automation is not automatically good or better.

So what are the potential positive and negative effects of automating delivery?

  • Automation has positive effects for shareholders and senior management of companies that implement it as an efficiency and cost-saving strategy. Senior management gets rewarded through their compensation. Shareholders are rewarded through returns on investment. Both get disproportionate shares of the savings.
  • Customers may receive their deliveries more quickly or reliably. I think customers are unlikely to see cost savings (they might see prices maintained and eventually prices creep up).
  • Delivery people lose their jobs and those remaining in their jobs (such as in related jobs) are unlikely see their salaries and wages increased as a result of automation and cost-savings.
  • The people displaced from delivery jobs have less to spend and save. They may draw on social security in the interim period after their jobs disappear which puts pressure on economies and governments to create other employment opportunities. If there are skills re-training opportunities, someone has to pay for them. Broadly speaking, re-training is funded from someone’s own savings (i.e. past earnings), by the government (i.e. taxes or other sources of revenue – redistribution of earnings across the nation), philanthropy (i.e. redistribution of earnings from wealthy people or corporations), or through borrowing and loans (i.e. from future earnings). The impact on the economy is less spending and redistribution of earnings from somewhere.
  • Like certain environmental issues, I see most companies implementing automation seeing job displacement as being someone else’s problem and do not spend nor invest any money to fund the education, training, or support require to help people through the change.
  • There are increasingly fewer entry-level jobs where no experience is required, thereby placing greater pressure on education and skills re-training programs to adequately equip people for employment. Education and skills re-training programs are currently not adequately keeping up with the change in technology and mix of types of employment available to people, but we can change that.

There is no right or wrong with automation. By now, we are certainly no strangers to automation. It is an individual choice that we make to create it or adopt it for ourselves and it is a collective choice that we make to adopt it widely and make it a norm in society. Being sensitive and attentive to the potential negative impact of automation on people around us and then doing something about it, helps ensure that automation is overall a positive development for societies and economies. Thinking not only about ourselves, but also about the interests of others and the environment around us is a very human quality. It’s something that we shouldn’t forget and shouldn’t let others tell us otherwise.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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On – 17 Apr, 2017 By Quora

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How Drones and Electric Trucks Will Change the Package Delivery Business |

Written by Stephen Burns, founder and chief executive of Workhorse Group. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.

Innovation is something that we tend to recognize only in hindsight, after – sometimes long after – it has occurred. But it’s hard not to acknowledge that we are living in a period of dramatic change for how packages get delivered. Just picture the fleets of delivery trucks driving around our neighborhoods throughout the Christmas season. How many of us have bought an item from an online retailer in the afternoon only to see it arrive at our doorstep the next day?

Thank the innovators in Silicon Valley and at as well as the rise of e-commerce for developing a better way for finding, purchasing and receiving goods from our homes.

The paradigm shift from trips by shoppers to brick-and-mortar stores to clicks on e-commerce websites caused a dramatic increase in the number of items that needed delivering to homes across America. To propel the revolution further, many web-only-based sellers, or e-tailers, began offering free delivery. While this expense is an initial loss, its recouped over the long term because the middleman – the retailer – is cut out.

Those who are familiar with the current architecture of last-mile parcel delivery readily see how far it has come since starting with just a horse and rider and then advancing to wagons and trucks. Delivery companies in America, for example, now make use of innovations such as tracking packages, telematics to measure efficiency and high-end training to create the world’s best professional drivers.

However – like in any industry – there is always room for improvement, and the delivery business is no exception. That is why we see a combination of drones and electric trucks as the next significant advancement in package delivery technologies.

Workhorse Group is developing this type of delivery by testing our Horsefly electric drone in concert with our electric step vans, which are built by putting delivery-truck bodies from mainstream companies like FedEx, UPS or Alpha Baking onto a chassis powered by lithium-ion batteries from Panasonic. Rather than having our drones make individual trips from a warehouse of packages, we’ve simply put each drone on top of a delivery truck.

While doing this is a unique approach right now, we anticipate that the drone-and-truck system will catch on slowly before becoming part of the mainstream model for package delivery.

Basing drones on the top of delivery trucks is a practical model because it eliminates a host of issues that arise when flying drones directly from warehouses. Drones, for example, have a carrying capacity of about 10 pounds, which is sufficient for handling most packages, but certainly not all of them.

Also, by putting the drone on top of the truck, the delivery driver can use the drone strategically for last-mile deliveries to isolated locations when driving the whole way would be inefficient. Today’s drivers do a fantastic job of handling all deliveries that come their way, but making things just a little bit more efficient for them would be beneficial for everyone.

A drone-and-truck system is extremely efficient. A driver making deliveries to homes in a rural landscape will venture off the main roads several times to deliver small parcels to secluded homes. These side trips not only take up time, but they also cost fuel and maintenance fees by putting wear-and-tear on the truck.

UPS estimates that by reducing just one mile per driver, per day, over one year can save up to $50 million. Using drones to fly the small parcels that are going to isolated locations frees up the driver to handle larger packages and focus on homes in areas with higher concentrations of deliveries.

Our system addresses another shortcoming for warehouse-based drones by working within current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, which require drones to be within the pilot’s “line of sight” while flying. Placing drones on top of electric trucks makes it feasible for a delivery business to use our innovative technology and comply with FAA regulations.

Some might question the safety of having drones flying to and fro, often across residential areas. But drones are particularly safe because of how extensively they have been tested and refined over the years. While the idea of using them on top of delivery trucks is new, drones are already employed in many diverse areas, including aiding U.S. armed forces in counter-terrorism operations and entertaining Drone Racing League fans on ESPN.

It is also possible that lingering anxieties exist about drones because they are not as widely seen in the U.S. compared with Europe, which has more innovation-friendly rules for flying unmanned aircraft. That’s why we are seeing some companies test drones there.

Before delivery drones become a common site in U.S. neighborhoods, there is plenty of work to be done.

First, regulators have to determine whether “line of sight” will stay the law of the land. When the FAA handed down this regulation in early 2015, Popular Science called it “an insurmountable obstacle for drone delivery companies.” Nevertheless, it’s an important reassurance to have in place while people get familiar with the sight and concept of delivery drones.

Second, delivery companies have so far demonstrated an admirably enterprising spirit with their willingness to utilize drones – as well as electric step trucks – but that pursuit of innovation mustn’t cease. New technologies can revolutionize the package delivery process by making it faster, lowering costs and reducing environmental consequences.

The final responsibility for making delivery drones mainstream in America rests on our shoulders. As innovators, we have devised solutions – and will continue to come up with more – that improve package delivery and commercial transportation in general. Great inventions are only part of what innovation requires. The other side of the equation is putting our new technologies into the hands of end-users. One way is by partnering with other pioneering companies.

Just this past February, Workhorse Group and UPS teamed up to successfully test the drone-and-truck system in Florida. Was this moment of innovation the harbinger for the future of package delivery? Will drones become mainstream for America’s delivery companies in 2018, 2020 or 2025? We’re hopeful it’s sooner rather than later, but like the horse, wagon and delivery truck before it, we fulfilled the first challenge by developing the next delivery technology. All that’s left is to disseminate it.

Editor’s Note: Stephen Burns is founder and chief executive of Workhorse Group, a manufacturer of battery-electric delivery vehicles and fully integrated truck-launched unmanned aerial systems.

On – 29 Mar, 2017 By

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How In-Home Package Delivery Could Save E-Commerce

Would you allow UPS to drop off a package inside your home when you’re not there?

That question is at the heart of a three-month pilot program that smart lock maker August tried out last winter with 76 of its users in an attempt to see if the company could help jumpstart the e-commerce industry.

Sitting in a conference room in August’s San Francisco headquarters last month, CEO and founder Jason Johnson explained that lofty ambition: It turns out, he said, that one of the biggest barriers to people shopping online is that they worry about what happens if their package arrives when they’re not home. It could get stolen or rained on, they fear, or be sent back to the shipper if there are too many unanswered reminders. Maybe they’ll have to drive to a store to sign for it.

“That cognitive load causes people to think twice before ordering online,” Johnson argued. “People have to go through machinations to facilitate [their package delivery]. These issues are the number one thing restricting e-commerce shopping.”

But what if consumers didn’t worry about the fate of their precious package? That would make buying online as easy as going to the store, Johnson said. That’s why numerous retailers and delivery service providers are thinking about ways to solve the problem.

And that’s what led to the August pilot program.

The company emailed a bunch of its customers and asked if they would participate in a test. They already know the benefits of their smart lock–which can auto-unlock when they approach, and which lets them give one-time, specific-time, or anytime access to anyone they like. But would they be willing to let delivery companies come inside to drop off those packages when they’re not at home if they had a camera and could watch the whole process, either live or later on?


A lot of people would be resistant to trying such a thing. There’s all kinds of potential problems. Theft. Pets escaping. Damage. Heck, what if the delivery guy saw a picture of your wife or daughter and decided to stalk her?

“It’s appropriate to use an analogy like Uber,” Johnson said, “where if I told you eight years ago that you’d have some 19-year-old in a Corolla pick you up, with no training, no skills, etc., and drive you to the airport. You’d say ‘No, thank you.’ I think there’s plenty of people who would say no way.”

Delivery companies and retailers would likely have their qualms as well, especially around their liability for any of those issues listed above, for example.

But August still thought it was worth finding out if in-home delivery was possible. So it gave 76 of their lock owners a Nestcam and a keypad that lets someone punch in a code that opens the lock and asked them to start allowing such deliveries. All August wanted in return was to get the videos of the deliveries and some feedback.

Simple Guidelines

The guidelines were simple: During the three months of the pilot, participants were asked to place between 5 and 10 orders from the vendors of their choice, each time giving the delivery provider instructions for dropping off the package inside–in other words, give them a code for the August keypad, anything they needed to know about pets, and that was it. And then point the camera at their entryway. 

Over the course of the experiment, participants got a total of 250 deliveries.

One of the keys to the trial was that August didn’t ask delivery companies to train anyone on how to handle in-home situations. It was important that those making the deliveries had to figure out what to do on their own–such as reading the instructions the customers had left for them.

Turns out, that wasn’t such a big ask. Many delivery companies have been dropping packages off this way–albeit without being enabled with technology like August’s–for years. Many locks have analog pin codes, and delivery companies often have access to the codes, or are even given keys to people’s homes, Johnson said.

August’s users were super happy with the results of the pilot, Johnson said. “The overwhelming response was ‘This is great,’” he said. “People were a little nervous, but overwhelmingly, they said, ‘This is how I want everything delivered to my house.”

Before the trial, an August survey found that participants had an extremely negative view of the idea of “unsecured” deliveries, a -42 Net Promoter Score, to be exact. Afterward, that score improved to +16. Further, 90% of the participants said they would continue to accept in-house deliveries from merchants–if it was available.

Kristin McGee, a teacher who lives in rural, coastal California, is on board.

Although she was initially adamant that she’d never let a delivery person in her empty house–“I was like, ‘Not happening,’” she said. “I don’t want to let some stranger into my house when I’m not there.”–she’s now a convert.

“I feel like I am one of those millennials who’s finding ways to get out of all her chores,” she said, sheepishly, adding that she now orders groceries to be delivered when she’s not home from two to three times a week. And the combination of the camera and the keypad is what won her over.

“My primary initial fear was that there would be someone in the home when I got home,” she said. “But with video, it kind of eliminated that fear. I would know that someone was gone before I even got home….Then I ended up loving it. It was super safe. I felt it was a secure system.”

What About The Vendors?

Getting customers on board is obviously a big step forward. But what about delivery companies and other vendors?

At the same time that August was running its pilot program with customers, it also had a separate trial going on with Sears Home Services, one of the largest appliance dealers and home service providers in the country. The idea was the same: Make it possible for Sears technicians to be able to easily get inside customers’ homes to make deliveries, service appliances, or even respond to emergency plumbing problems, all when no one is around.

Access to people’s homes is vital for the company’s business said Ryan Ciovacco, president of connected living for Sears Holdings. “We need to have someone there. More often than not, that’s causing someone to take a day off from work, or plan their [weekend] around it. We wanted to test how receptive people would be to allowing a technician in their home” when they’re not there.

Sears selected 20 homes and ran the experiment for two to three weeks. “It was a really successful pilot for us,” he said. “Every customer who participated said that they would pick Sears Home Services over a competitor because of this flexibility, the benefit of being able to give keyless entry to the home.”

Ciovacco said that customers are always going to have some concerns about something like deliveries when no one’s home, but added that he thinks those concerns can be allayed when the vendor is a trusted company or brand. Plus, he said, “it’s a tradeoff. They think the value outweighs that very, very rare chance that something bad could happen.”

For Sears, expanding from the pilot program and making such service calls and deliveries available nationwide isn’t something that can happen overnight. It would have to integrate access to August’s locks directly into its own apps and devices. “But once we figure that out,” Ciovacco said, “we’ll probably do something” larger.

Although August isn’t revealing who else it’s talking to besides Sears, Johnson said the company is now in active discussions with numerous retailers and delivery providers about how they could provide home delivery services when no one’s around. “It’s a question of working with those providers to make this something that’s commercialized, with training,” Johnson said. “We’ve already completed trials with some, and some are moving toward commercialization plans.

The trick will be to get people to the point where they take such things for granted, much as we all do now with things like taking rides with Uber or Lyft, or staying in people’s homes via Airbnb.

That day is coming. “I think so,” said Ciovacco. “There are always going to be some sorts of issue, and that’s going to happen across the board with every new service and technology, and I think we just have to all work together to remove as many of those [issues] as we can.”

McGee, who used to live in a city and regularly grappled with packages being stolen from outside her house, agreed.

“For big city life, I think it’s a must,” McGee said. “I think it changes everything for deliveries.”

On – 21 Apr, 2017 By Daniel Terdiman

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