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Alphabet's Wing delivery drone takes out suburbs power grid, 2358 electricity customers lose power.

Dirtyshado
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Summary

In Australia, a Queensland suburb lost all electricity supply after a food delivery flying drone collided with power lines.

The drone's are Alphabet's (aka Google's parent company) Wing project, which is a trail drone delivery service being tested in Australian in the cities of Canberra and Logan (in Brisbane greater city area) where it made over 75,000 deliveries this year in Logan alone.

 

2000 of the effected electricity customers lost all power for around 45 minutes after first report, an additional 300 remaining customers, who were closest to the drone, left powerless for around three hours.

 

Quotes

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Energy company called it a crash.  Wing's called it a "precautionary landing"

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Energy company spokesperson confirmed there was no long-term damage to the lines but if any damage was to occur to the network, there could be a hefty fine.

 

My thoughts

Crash? or Landing? 

Landing implied some form of control, so could they not of controlled it to say land a full wingspan length to the left or right of the high voltage power line?

 

I think it lost power to hold itself aloft and its onboard auto-pilot landed straight down... so the drone would appear to have being flying with the direction of the power lines which is extremely risky and a serious issue to consider.

 

The area of Logan has a mix of young and elderly citizens, its local opinion on Wings delivery has been hit/miss due to its convenience being positive to younger users but an inconvenience to elderly residents who don't like hearing or seeing them flying overhead. Having one take out the whole power grid might shift opinions or at least require further regulation and investigation by authorities.

 

Sources

News.com.au Article: "Thousands of Aussies without power thanks to drone"  https://www.news.com.au/technology/gadgets/thousands-of-aussies-without-power-thanks-to-drone/news-story/ce416b798b925aa1e675be93e32dd8d0

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There's some logic to local delivery in some areas with drones like this, maybe. But if they're going to sound like lawnmowers, they're going to be prevented from operation in much of the world.

 

Though I feel from a kW usage for delivery, I have a feeling trucks will probably still be on Net far more efficient. But we'll see.

 

Edit: one side point for why it's fairly unlikely to see this in the States: up to a certain level (400 feet?)  is generally the under the domain of the property owner below that. Which means either the drones have to file flight plans with the FAA or the drones are trespassing. So the drones would have to follow the roads and just be inefficient trucks. This might only end up being true in the USA, but it's kind of important to the drone topic in general. I see a use for this type of tech. Replacing UPS, Fedex or DHL is not one of them.

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Just now, Taf the Ghost said:

There's some logic to local delivery in some areas with drones like this, maybe. But if they're going to sound like lawnmowers, they're going to be prevented from operation in much of the world.

 

Though I feel from a kW usage for delivery, I have a feeling trucks will probably still be on Net far more efficient. But we'll see.

This is why autonomous or flying stuff is risky! 


While trucks make more sense stateside. From what I have read, in places like Australia, there is even hard to get cell service in many parts of the country. So a drone delivery for emergencies and other deliveries makes a lot of sense. 

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Maybe the batteries were running low and it needed a quick top-off recharge.

 

Or the AI saw birds resting on power lines and assumed that's just what flying things are supposed to do.

 

17 minutes ago, Dirtyshado said:

I think it lost power to hold itself aloft and its onboard auto-pilot landed straight down... so the drone would appear to have being flying with the direction of the power lines which is extremely risky and a serious issue to consider.

This is probably correct. Depending on the direction it was flying, this could have been a one-in-a-million fluke.

 

Following high tension lines makes sense when everything's working as it should. They're wide open, unobstructed air paths that don't have people under them the vast majority of the time. If that becomes standard procedure, the battery would need a bigger 'emergency reserve' and the nav software would have to be smarter than "battery low, land NOW". If it was able to actively avoid obstacles on its way down, that could also keep them out of trees.

Dell owns my soul.

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4 minutes ago, NoWaterCooling007 said:

This is why autonomous or flying stuff is risky! 


While trucks make more sense stateside. From what I have read, in places like Australia, there is even hard to get cell service in many parts of the country. So a drone delivery for emergencies and other deliveries makes a lot of sense. 

I did have an edit while you were responding thinking on much the same wavelength, haha. Point to Point air transit makes sense in certain contexts. But that's going to be something like VTOL drones for things like organ transports or in places where point to point is far more efficient by air. Think places with a lot of lakes or high hills.

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2 minutes ago, Needfuldoer said:

Maybe the batteries were running low and it needed a quick top-off recharge.

 

Or the AI saw birds resting on power lines and assumed that's just what flying things are supposed to do.

We all thought SkyNet will destroy Humanity. No, it realized its true enemy: Birds.

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12 minutes ago, NoWaterCooling007 said:

From what I have read, in places like Australia, there is even hard to get cell service in many parts of the country. So a drone delivery for emergencies and other deliveries makes a lot of sense. 

This isn't an emergency or remote location delivery drone project, Wings is just about beating Amazon and Uber to being first in city suburb delivery drones. Like they are also in the US City of Dallas, Texas.   They are picking cities with large flat wide areas and limited airborne interference.

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19 minutes ago, Taf the Ghost said:

Though I feel from a kW usage for delivery, I have a feeling trucks will probably still be on Net far more efficient.

I wonder about that... In my coutry, Amazon has developed electric vans for last mile delivery, so a drone ought to be less efficient than that in terms of KWh/Delivery just because of physics.

 

An air drone might be simpler to do autonomous driving for, because there is less stuff in the skyes, so in terms of overall costs, air drone deliveries ought to beat manned electric van deliveries for last mile.

Overall, I think this technology makes sense for time sensitive, last mile deliveries.

30 minutes ago, Dirtyshado said:

Crash? or Landing? 

When an helicopters lands on a power line, it's a crash. Because it's a power line! Helicopters are supposed to stay well away from power lines. This is a crash landing. It landed where it was definitely meant to stay well away from.

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20 minutes ago, Needfuldoer said:

Following high tension lines makes sense when everything's working as it should. They're wide open, unobstructed air paths that don't have people under them the vast majority of the time. If that becomes standard procedure, the battery would need a bigger 'emergency reserve' and the nav software would have to be smarter than "battery low, land NOW". If it was able to actively avoid obstacles on its way down, that could also keep them out of trees.

Following the lines makes no sense, considering the danger. The energy company compared it to not to flying kites near powerlines, don't fly drones near them either. 

But what are the options considering residents also don't want them flying over their yards. 

The suburb has low density housing no more than 2 stories tall with the occasional "apartment complex" in the suburbs hub areas so it has very few "crash" risks.

 

I think it had power to spare, Wings is really conservative with not "draining" them and constantly charging them. So an emergency landing would imply it had a technical fault. They can suffer multiple engine failures and still remain airborne - seen a tech demo years ago, but still, with all its sensors... could it not avoid landing on a power line???

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29 minutes ago, 05032-Mendicant-Bias said:

because there is less stuff in the skyes,

For now. The moment these things take off the sky will be basically a minefield and become very noise polluted not looking forward to it at all

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30 minutes ago, Dirtyshado said:

could it not avoid landing on a power line???

Depends on the failiure and programming. Assuming that critical failiure -> land now slowly at all costs is one of the most basic error solutions it could be that a set of failiures has caused it to have to result to this most basic concept.

 

Could be a bug too or an oversight the latter being the most likely thing as well so far every single ai vehicle has done weird things like this 😛

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The drone didn't directly cause the power outage when it collided with the power lines. When Wing reported the incident to the energy provider they cut the power as a precaution and so the drone could be recovered safely. The drone didn't cause any damage to the power lines. Seems like cars crashing in to power poles are more of an issue. (though, obviously if you are flying a drone you should avoid power lines!)

 

We all just need to stop ordering so much damn crap.

Edited by Spotty

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54 minutes ago, Spotty said:

The drone didn't directly cause the power outage when it collided with the power lines. When Wing reported the incident to the energy provider they cut the power as a precaution and so the drone could be recovered safely. The drone didn't cause any damage to the power lines. Seems like cars crashing in to power poles are more of an issue. (though, obviously if you are flying a drone you should avoid power lines!)

 

We all just need to stop ordering so much damn crap.

I'm sure everyone buying on a whim and having single packages delivered on a daily basis has no negative environmental impact whatsoever from the packaging waste, energy used to deliver the goods, or the landfill space consumed by shein clothes being binned after 1/2 day of use.

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A landing they say?  I thought landing any aircraft on a power line would be considered a no-go by casa flight operation regulations.   

Grammar and spelling is not indicative of intelligence/knowledge.  Not having the same opinion does not always mean lack of understanding.  

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2 hours ago, Taf the Ghost said:

Though I feel from a kW usage for delivery, I have a feeling trucks will probably still be on Net far more efficient. But we'll see.

A full work day delivery truck (small cube) from store to house still cost nearly 3/4 of a tank. Pretty sure the drone cost much less to operate. I made a quick math of the cost of gas here and for 3km ride which is small delivery range that be around 3$ of gas. pretty certain a full electric car doesn't cost 3$ for 6 km back and forth and even less a drone.

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1 hour ago, Spotty said:

The drone didn't directly cause the power outage when it collided with the power lines.

Assumed that was the possible, giving no visible damage on the line/drone, but I couldn't find a report that stated that.  I was guessing circuit breaker or manual shut down.

 

Still, Wings does have to answer why is the drone's flight path following the path of power lines directly above it? in such a now clearly risky manner.

Why is the drone's emergency landing unable to correct itself to avoid landing on dangerous locations (in this instance/or at all)?

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19 minutes ago, Franck said:

A full work day delivery truck (small cube) from store to house still cost nearly 3/4 of a tank. Pretty sure the drone cost much less to operate. I made a quick math of the cost of gas here and for 3km ride which is small delivery range that be around 3$ of gas. pretty certain a full electric car doesn't cost 3$ for 6 km back and forth and even less a drone.

Drone can only do one delivery at a time, the car can do multiple deliveries at a time.  Also the car can take larger deliveries.  So if drones were to become feasible you would need to be comparing multiple drones (unknown number)  to one car.  

 

Does anyone know the limits of these drones? 

Grammar and spelling is not indicative of intelligence/knowledge.  Not having the same opinion does not always mean lack of understanding.  

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4 minutes ago, mr moose said:

Does anyone know the limits of these drones? 

The first tests they were 120 km/h, 1.5 kg and 14 km round trip. But now they have done over 100k deliveries so i assume they improved since then.

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10 minutes ago, mr moose said:

Does anyone know the limits of these drones? 

Yea, power lines apparently are the limit 🙃

 

Drone/helicopters are actually quite energy inefficient for flight/motion and lift capacity, at least Wing seems to know this. Problem is that makes them bigger and more complex 🤷‍♂️

Edited by leadeater
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24 minutes ago, Franck said:

A full work day delivery truck (small cube) from store to house still cost nearly 3/4 of a tank. Pretty sure the drone cost much less to operate. I made a quick math of the cost of gas here and for 3km ride which is small delivery range that be around 3$ of gas. pretty certain a full electric car doesn't cost 3$ for 6 km back and forth and even less a drone.

Local Haul and Local Delivery is actually the spot where Electric Trucks/Vans make sense. Which is why the whole "we're going to do long haul!" is an insult to Physics and Logic. Also why I brought up kW. Direct Lift Generating Flight is not going to be efficient for package delivery in terms of energy used to move a package. And since it'll be a 1-package round trip, you need a Fleet of drones to handle what a Sprinter can cover and probably in roughly the same time frame.

 

That said, the power of Flight is the removal of ground-level constraints. Thus, areas cut up by a lot of rivers and lakes makes sense. High elevation changes as well.  I recently saw a video about I train line in England that terminates at a Ferry terminal. I think it was around Poole in the SW of England. Why do I bring that up? There's an entire bay that's populated around the perimeter. Cross-crossing Drones makes a lot of Business & Economic sense for a number of product movements. Any place where Ferries or Cable Cars are common place, Drone-based goods movement is economically viable. In perfectly flat land areas, not so much.

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1 minute ago, leadeater said:

Yea, power lines apparently are the limit 🙃

 

Drone/helicopters are actually quite energy inefficient for flight/motion and lift capacity so really these are just bad from the outset. For this to actually make sense they need to be able to transition from hover to glide and actually fly.

I haven't seen the new generation of drones, but I would assume VTOL would eventually come in. Basically, they're be Osprey-like Drones. That'd also add some solid capacity.

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Just now, Taf the Ghost said:

I haven't seen the new generation of drones, but I would assume VTOL would eventually come in. Basically, they're be Osprey-like Drones. That'd also add some solid capacity.

Yea I just edited my comment, this Wings drone is already this so that's good to see.

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