Direct delivery — through drones, trucks and blockchain.

I’ll tell you a story how delivery drones, electric trucks (like the Tesla Semi) and blockchain fit together.

An Amazon Prime Air delivery drone (Source Amazon)

If you were in the 90ies and needed something like an electrical charger or some screws for building something at home, you probably went to the shop buying these things first hand.

Today many things are much easier to buy from Amazon and they are delivered right on the same days. Directly to your doorstep. Giving the postal services a hard time delivering increasing amount of packets every day.

With this trend increasing every day and more and more people taking the very convenient way, the requirement for more efficient delivery becomes obvious.

The next step is, that you get your delivery in hours or minutes right to your hands — wherever you are at this point (yes even if you are traveling).

To make this possible, our shipment and delivery systems must become faster, cheaper and more flexible. For this reason Amazon is looking into drone delivery since 2014.

Drones today are capable of delivering most standard delivery packets easily (up to multiple kg in weight) in a range of multiple kilometers. But they are not capable of delivering these packets further distances. We will come back how to solve that problem.

Note: Please be aware that I’ll not cover any legal prerequisites for the fictional scenario described. Even all components and technologies are there today, it will take years to have them in wide adopted production.

Elon Musk is revolutionizing the way how we are connected in many ways.

With Tesla he builds better cars in any size and color revolutionizing short distance travel (distances of up to ~1000 km an below). Tesla is revolutionizing even in parts where you did not expect that it is possible. With the Tesla Semi Truck he will bring a clean truck to cities, which shine in fast acceleration and zero emissions. These vehicles are not only nice but they are better than the existing fuel equivalents. This will be the relevant revolution we will look into this post.

With a Tesla Semi Truck (source: https://www.designboom.com) with special transport containers it is possible to host multiple drones on the back with wireless charging stations and even potential weather protection.

With Hyperloop Elon Musk is revolutionizing medium distance travel (500 to 3000 km and more) for goods and people. Making intercity connections like Berlin-Hamburg-Amsterdam-Paris an easy ride less than one hour between each of these cities. Disrupting the flight industry for intercity and short distance flights.

With Space X Elon Musk revolutionizes long distance travel. And with the ambiguous BFR Project (Big Fucking Rocket) he makes it possible to go from any place on earth to any other place on earth in less than an hour.

After speaking about the potential use of drones as delivery vehicles and the revolution of transportation in many ways I want to come back and be more specific. In this article I want to drill down on how drones, autonomous electric trucks and blockchain can play together. Interestingly enough the SmartGrids (for transportation) are working similar to biology and the blood-stream and the cells in our body.

Let’s follow a drone delivering a packet from a storehouse to a 71 km away private home in a calm area which is 5 km away from the next highway.

Mr. Keller is coming back from a business travel. At home he recognizes that he left his phone charger in the hotel he stayed last night. Mr. Keller decides that he needs a new electrical charger and orders it through direct delivery from his phone.

Delivery-drones will fly in large numbers.

The order is processed and the closed delivery route is selected. 71 km away a package with the required phone charger goes out of the storehouse and is picked up from one of thousands of autonomous remote controlled delivery drones taking care of direct delivery.

The autonomous remote controlled drone departures with Mr. Keller’s packet. It can can reach out to a distance up to 60 km (in optimized conditions) which is way less than the total distance required (142 km forth and back). Therefore the drone requires a carrier to reach the target.

The delivery drones takes the packet and departures to the close by highway where it detects a free slot on the top of a autonomous driving electrical truck. Through an traffic control and communication protocol the drone can find a truck driving in the same direction as the delivery needs to go and therefore reduce the flight distance drastically while traveling on the back of a electric truck.

The drone lands with the packet on a specially designed drone-truck transport pad where the drone instantaneously starts to charge. Electrical consumption as well as the micro payment for the meters traveled on the pad (on the back of the truck) are calculated by SmartContracts which uses the identity of the drone and the truck as verification to grant access to the pad and allow the machines to successfully interact with each other.

Through SmartGrid planning systems the drone could do multiple hops (if required) to jump between multiple truck transport pads. Due to the fact that each truck can publish their travel route and schedule, the drones can do a route optimization to the destination and back.

Drones will increase availability for fast delivery even in rural regions.

After two jumps with one break on a stationary drone landing pad on a nearby highway crossing the drone finally reaches Mr. Keller’s home. Mr. Keller is informed via App that the drone has arrived and confirms successful delivery. While the drone is heading back Mr. Keller can utilize his charger.

All payments and micro payments could be done through crypto-currencies while SmartContracts guarantee trustful interaction between the machines involved (Even if the drone, the packet and the truck where owned by different companies).

So where was the blockchain involved in detail?

  • Record of the product delivery chain (in case the drone would be destroyed on the path to the customer, insurance for the drone and the delivery could be automatically been executed and new delivery been sent)
  • Micro payments for renting drone pad time on the truck, energy recharging of the drone
  • Access control: Granting the drone approval to use the drone pad service on the truck
  • Digital identity: using a digital Identity to identify against other contractors (the warehouse, the truck)
  • Customer payment with cryptocurrencies

Guess how the trucks recharge in the future? If you guessed through agreements based on SmartContracts you are probably guessing right. If you are interested in the things to come there, have a look at ConsenSys Grid+pilot project in Texas.

Blockchain is revolutionizing the way we trust. Transportation and IOT (Machine to Machine communication) will greatly benefit from making it possible to execute the scenario described above.


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