Why It’s a Historic Time to Invest in Autonomous Vehicles Technologies?

Why It’s a Historic Time to Invest in Autonomous Vehicles Technologies?

“Cost-effective aerial drones and rovers can replace expensive infrastructure and save lives. Now that driverless cars might become a suburban reality in the near future, it’s time to use this technology now to benefit rural areas. ” says David Li, Board of Director for Last 100 Miles.

In the 1930s, autonomous vehicles were seen as a futuristic creation that was just around the corner. But without the necessary technology to make it a reality, there was little reason to invest into it.

Driverless Car of the Future, advertisement for “America’s Electric Light and Power Companies,” Saturday Evening Post, 1950s.

Fast forward to 2004 when DARPA holds the first challenge for a self-driving vehicles to navigate 142 miles of rough terrain. Although no team claimed the $1 million cash prize, it did inspire renewed interest in this technical challenge, accelerating the development of autonomous vehicles. Eighteen months later at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, five teams successfully completed the course, proving that the technology is finally viable. Consequently, this technology has attracted an unparalleled amount of investment to further fulfill this urban self-driving fantasy. Ford has invested $4.5 billion in autonomous vehicles. Audi, BMW and many others are partnering with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) start-ups left and right. In 2016, drone startups saw a record of 100 deals worth $454M in funding, with 2017 projected to hit $506 million in funding. And it’s not just drones, UAVs and autonomous cars; everything related to the transportation stack is getting attention: AI to manage traffic, pathfinding, precision positioning, image recognition, LiDAR and alternatives, etc.

If transportation can be made cheaper or faster by even 1%, then there is a lot of money to be made.

China is one of the most active investment player in the world on transportation infrastructure projects

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays a big role of accelerating the process for making the world more physically connected via transportation networks. This isn’t merely an investment from China to re-establish the ancient Silk Road–more than 100 countries have signed on with investments, free trade agreements, mergers and other partnerships looking to capitalize on this boom in infrastructure projects.The BRI will link cities in 65+ countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, via new land and sea trade routes, creating $500 billion in infrastructure deals and connecting 63% of the world’s population. We believe this initiative will bring prosperity to hundreds of millions in the next decade.

Africa is one of the most exciting testbeds in the world for technology infrastructure leapfrog

Africa, a continent that has been known for its years of under-development, now is providing one of the most exciting opportunity in the world for infrastructure upgrade and leapfrog. Renewable energy projects such as micro-grid constructions are underway. Medical deliveries by drones are being deployed. Why are all these pilot projects happening in Africa? Because they have true needs for technology as urban-rural integration is happening rapidly, thus presents challenges that impacts just about every industry. Imagine when goods from China finally arrive in Lamu, Kenya (port) via the new global trade route, and need to be sent to the capital city Nairobi. What would be the cheapest way logistically for the goods to reach the rural areas? There’s not going to be enough time and money to build up roads; however, transportation hubs are viable. As a matter of fact, these hubs “droneports” are being created and invested all over Africa. Currently for medical, but in the future for also for cargos, by introducing autonomous vehicles to this new system, a new kind of transportation network is already slowly being incubated in East Africa.

Image Credit: Norman Foster Foundation

This also indirectly helps with the pressing urban-rural integration issue on a macro social scale. Currently, the rural population who do not live within reach of all-season roads lack basic access to goods and opportunities. They migrate to urban areas, then live in slums and create many issues that impact social stability. But by providing the rural population access to goods and services using autonomous technologies, people can focus more on production, less on unnecessary transportation, thus stimulate sustainable community growth. 50% of the hungry people in Africa are farmers. That is due to non-modernized agriculture practices and the lack of abilities to trade. With autonomous technologies such as agriculture cargo drones , farmers can speed up production and transportation process. Agriculture alone is a golden investment vertical with clear meaningful outcome.


It’s strategic investing, as well as impact investing

Everyone from tech giants, car manufacturers, NGOs, investment firms and entrepreneurs are investing in the future of autonomous vehicle technology. This historical moment of global tech investment as well as infrastructure is the perfect time to leverage the technology built up and capitalize on the potential. Modern autonomous vehicle tech could not only solve many problems, it would also dramatically change people’s lives.

Africa Leads the World on Drone Delivery: Flights to Begin in Tanzania in 2018

Africa Leads the World on Drone Delivery: Flights to Begin in Tanzania in 2018

Drone delivery is finally getting off the ground. And the action is happening in East Africa.

Zipline, a pioneering drone startup that began delivering blood packs to Rwanda’s remote hospitals in October 2016, today announced a major expansion into Tanzania. In early 2018 the company will begin flying its delivery drones to more than 1000 health care facilities around Tanzania, bringing urgently needed medicines and supplies to big hospitals and tiny rural clinics alike.

Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO of Zipline, says that “the richest companies in the world” are still trying to figure out how to make instant drone delivery work as a commercial service (as IEEE Spectrum has noted in it’s coverage of Google’s Project Wing and Amazon’s Prime Air). Meanwhile, the world’s first on-demand delivery service is already up and running in Rwanda.

“People expect that advanced robotics and AI are going to start in the United States and be built by rich white people,” Rinaudo says bluntly. Zipline’s East Africa projects defy that expectation, he says, and create a model of tech deployment that the United States and other nations can follow. “Rwanda and Tanzania are showing the world how to use robotic technology to save lives,” he says.

In Tanzania, the company is establishing four distribution centers with up to 30 fixed-wing drones each. Each distribution center will handle up to 500 delivery flights per day. The Tanzanian operation will expand on Zipline’s prior offering by delivering not only blood packs, but also vaccines, HIV medications, anti-malaria drugs, and critical medical supplies like sutures and IV tubes.

To place an order, a health care worker simply sends a text via the popular messaging service WhatsApp. Zipline’s local operators load a drone at the distribution center and launch it into the air, whereupon it autonomously navigates the route to its destination and typically arrives within 30 minutes. To save on battery life and prevent wear-and-tear, the drone doesn’t land; instead it drops its cargo by parachute and then heads back to the distribution center.

Rinaudo says his engineering team has recently made improvements to the drone fleet, working on aerodynamics and battery design to make drones that can fly farther, faster, and with heavier payloads. Another upgrade has to do with maintaining the drones in Africa’s harsh conditions: “We want to be able to swap parts of the vehicle very quickly, almost like Legos, so technicians can very quickly get it back online,” he says.

But Rinaudo says the biggest lesson his team learned in its early Rwanda operations is that “the technology is the easy part.” He ticks off the hard parts of operating an automated, drone-delivery system at national scale: making sure all regulatory issues are resolved; finding and training a local team to operate the distribution centers; spreading word to doctors and health care workers about the service; and communicating with people in towns and villages who see the drones whizzing overhead. “We want them to understand how this technology benefits them,” Rinaudo says.

When describing Zipline’s benefits, Rinaudo employs some convincing statistics and stories. In Rwanda, Zipline has flown 1,400 delivery flights since service began in October 2016. About 25 percent of those flights were emergency deliveries, where doctors didn’t have the blood product they needed for an ailing patient.

Rinaudo describes one case from Rwanda, in which a 24-year-old woman gave birth via C-section at a hospital. There were complications after the birth and the woman began to hemorrhage, so the doctors immediately gave her two packs of blood that matched her blood type. “But she bled out in 10 minutes,” Rinaudo says. “She was in real danger, and likely to lose her life.”

The doctors didn’t have any more packs of her blood type, so they placed an emergency order with Zipline. A procession of drones ended up delivering seven units of red blood cells, two units of plasma, and two units of platelets. “All of that was transfused into this woman—that’s more blood than you have in your body normally—and they stabilized her,” Rinaudo says. The team didn’t just save the woman’s life, he says, they also ensured that her child would have a mother. Not a bad day’s work for a couple of drones.


Original Source: IEEE (http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/robotics/drones/africa-leads-the-world-on-drone-delivery.amp.html)

UAV Challenge Launched 2 New Global Competitions For Drone Delivery Innovators

UAV Challenge Launched 2 New Global Competitions For Drone Delivery Innovators

About UAV Challenge

UAV Challenge is technical organization from Australia. Their goal is to demonstrate the utility of Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAVs) for civilian applications. They run challenges and contents, and invite university students and high-school students around the world to develop novel and cost-effective solutions.

The UAV Challenge Outback Rescue was an unmanned aircraft search and rescue competition that ran from 2007 to 2014. It saw teams from around the world compete to save lost bushwalker Outback Joe using unmanned aircraft and deliver him a life saving water bottle with a prize of $50,000.

The last UAV Challenge events were held in September 2016, in Calvert and Dalby, Queensland, Australia and was organized  jointly by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and CSIRO.

UAV Challenge Organizers
Current Open Competitions
  • The UAV Challenge Medical Express – an unmanned aircraft competition that demonstrates the use of robotic aircraft for medical sample retrieval and medical delivery, and open to adult teams from around the world. This competition is focussing on autonomy of unmanned aircraft.
  • UAV Challenge Airborne Delivery – an unmanned aircraft competition for high-school students from around the world that demonstrates the use of radio-controlled aircraft with novel delivery mechanisms to deliver medical payloads. 27 teams from 9 countries registered for the 2017 Airborne Delivery Challenge. The teams come from nine different countries including Australia, China, Turkey, Poland, Greece, Denmark, USA, India and Malaysia. The teams will be submitting their technical reports and videos to the organizer to advance in the challenge. Only 20 teams will be selected to take part in the competition in Queensland, Australia in September.