Swarms of Disposable Drones Will Make Critical Deliveries and Then Vanish
Delivery drones still face an uncertain future, but there’s at least one scenario where they make a lot of sense: Flying robots can be ideal for bringing small, high value, time-sensitive goods to people in low-infrastructure areas. As specific a situation as that sounds like, it’s an enormous opportunity, and has the potential to make a huge difference in rural areas and disaster relief missions with deliveries of food and medical supplies, for example.
One challenge with that, however, is that while drones are cheap to operate, the up-front investment is significant, especially if you need to make a lot of deliveries quickly, like right after an earthquake. With this sort of thing in mind, DARPA has funded several companies under its ICARUS (Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems) program to create cheap, disposable drones that are designed to deliver a thing to a place and then be forgotten about. One of the companies receiving DARPA funding is San Francisco research firm Otherlab, which does weird robotics-y stuff with creative materials, among other things, and they’ve come up with a design for a drone they’re calling APSARA: Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply/ Actions.