Australian textbook rental startup Zookal will begin utilizing drones to make its deliveries in Australia next year, with ambitions of bringing the unique, unmanned delivery method to US customers by 2015. The company says this marks the first commercial use of fully automated drones worldwide. It will fulfill deliveries in Sydney using six drones to start, dropping off textbook purchases at an outdoor location of the customer’s choosing. To wipe away any potential privacy or surveillance fears, the drones aren't equipped with cameras. Instead, built-in anti-collision technology keeps them clear of trees, buildings, birds, and other potential obstacles.
Both the location of the user and the drone’s GPS coordinates are transmitted via a smartphone app, and Zookal claims deliveries can be completed in as little as two to three minutes once a drone takes flight. You can track the drone's progress from the app (which will only be available on Android at launch) and head outside once it's getting close. The drone never fully lowers itself to ground level, but rather hovers overhead and lowers its textbook delivery with the tap of a button on your smartphone.
"As one of the few countries in the world to allow commercial drone activities, Australia is uniquely placed to create a new drone industry and shape the development of regulations in this space," said Zookal CEO Ahmed Haider. Flirtey, the company that's providing the drones for Zookal's ambitious plan, is in the process of seeking regulatory approval with Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). A test flight is slated for November, and if all goes according to plan, proper commercial deliveries will begin in March. The FAA will need first need to outline a clear policy for commercial drone usage before such a system can make its way to the US, something it hopes to do in 2015.