How to create a “whole solution” for drones and VTOLs.

I was thinking about drones and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles recently, and my interest was re-awakened by the news that Amazon has received approval for a delivery drone. The concept I keep coming back to is a saying we had as kids: close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. Let me explain.

When you pitch horseshoes (although I doubt many people do that anymore), it’s difficult to get a “ringer” – that is, the horseshoe wraps around the pole. Often, you’ll get a “leaner”, where the horseshoe leans or touches the pole – and you get points for that. Finally, you also get points if the horseshoe lands close to the pole without touching. Hence, the origin of “close enough for horseshoes” – meaning you get a few points for being close enough. The same logic applies for hand grenades. A rifle shot is only useful if it hits its target directly; a hand grenade with its explosive power can create damage even if the grenade simply goes off in the vicinity of its target. For some solutions, close enough is “good enough”, but getting close enough may be a barrier to other technologies. What’s this got to do with drones or VTOLs? Ultimately, they need to be better than “close enough”.

Drones and VTOLs are perfect for delivering small, in demand or critical items quickly, as long as the takeoff and delivery are controlled points. By controlled points I mean a helipad or some other manned or secured landing spot. A drone’s cargo isn’t “delivered” if it lands in the front yard when no one is home, or when it lands in the courtyard of a large apartment complex where anyone can pick up the parcel. Drones and VTOLs face a similar “last mile” issue that many other solutions face. Unless the delivery point is manned, like a heliport, or your package is expected and the receiver stands outside to receive it, or the drone or VTOL can land and deposit the package in a secure location, the delivery is not complete.

This, then, is a “Crossing the Chasm” problem. That is, until vendors solve the problem of safely and precisely transferring goods, or equipment, or organs, from a drone to the correct receiver, the delivery isn’t complete. Most consumers don’t want to stand around and wait for a drone to land – many are concerned for their safety with a drone overhead. Plus, they like the convenience of having the UPS driver bring the package to the door. Does this mean that drones and VTOLs won’t solve a home delivery need? Not necessarily, but it does point out an entirely new opportunity: a secure depository for drones, UPS, the US Mail and perhaps other home deliveries.

As we spend more time at home due to COVID, working and learning from home, we may find that home delivery is much more attractive for a variety of products. As deliveries grow, porch pirates also become an issue. What if you could place a secure depository on your lawn that replaced your mailbox (while still receiving mail there) that could also serve as a secure location for UPS or FedEx if you aren’t at home, and could potentially become a secure docking and depository station for drone delivery? Increasingly, safe, convenient and unmonitored space for any home delivery should be very valuable. The only difference is the delivery mechanism. Most home deliveries, food, restaurants, mail, packages, etc arrive by truck. Drone deliveries will arrive by air, but accomplish much of the same task.

While a safe, secure depository in your yard may not solve the “last 50 feet” of delivery, through a secure docking and deposit system we can make it much safer and predictable for drones or VTOLs to deliver their packages and for consumers to feel that their products are secure, even when they aren’t at home. With a little bit of WiFi magic, the depository could report to your home internet system that you’ve received a package.

I referenced “Crossing the Chasm” above, which is a simple shortcut to talk about what very early adopters want (technology) and what the vast majority of buyers want (a complete product or solution). Drone delivery is a technical capability. It is cool, but it requires a human in the loop, often at both ends if not as a remote pilot as well. A more complete solution takes the human out of the loop, removes uncertainty and worry about loss or theft, and secures a delivery. I’m not saying that a secure deposit box will be the only feature required for home delivery via drone or VTOL to “take off”, so to speak, but safety and security are important, and relieving the homeowner or receiver of having to be present to have the package delivered is a powerful benefit.

About the Author:





Jeffrey Phillips is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on innovation and digital transformation.  Jeffrey has led innovation projects for Fortune 500 firms, including T. Rowe Price, John Deere, GlaxoSmithKline, Hewlett-Packard, U.S. Bank, TransAmerica, AIG, Milliman, 5th 3rd Bank, Hollister, Electrolux, Hamilton-Beach, Raytheon and others, government entities within the Department of Defense, academic institutions and non-profits based on OVO Innovation’s Innovate on Purpose™ methodology.  The Innovate on Purpose methodology encourages organizations to consider innovation as a sustainable, repeatable business discipline, rather than a discrete project.

Original post: posted by Jeffrey Phillips 
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