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Drone Developers Consider Obstacles That Cannot Be Flown Around

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An experimental Google delivery drone in Queensland, Australia.

A number of issues remain to be resolved before drone makers can enjoy a "new age of drone ubiquity."

Credit: Google

Drone makers are eager for a new age of drone ubiquity in which semi-autonomous flying robots do everything from dust crops to deliver dog food, but before that can become a reality several issues remain to be resolved.

The biggest issue is making sure drones do not run into each other, buildings, people, or the ground. Google recently unveiled its Project Wing delivery drone system, but demonstrated it in the Australian outback because there were fewer things for drones to hit. Google plans to spend the next year improving a drone's ability to navigate autonomously, as well as its "detect-and-avoid" system sensors that prevent it from running into other objects.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working to develop a standalone air traffic control system for drones that would mirror the air traffic control systems used by commercial aviation and would be exclusively responsible for objects flying at 400 to 500 feet. The system would have to track weather and other flying objects such as helicopters, but also route drones around buildings and other obstacles. NASA expects the first commercial applications to be in agriculture and security, with deliveries coming within a decade.

From The New York Times
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