In Australia, a drone will deliver – books? Yes, really

The drone will be used to rush textbooks to students in delivery times as short as two to three minutes.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
An unmanned US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan.

Now this is one drone we can get behind.

Australia is set to launch the world’s first book drone, an unmanned aerial drone that would be used to deliver textbook orders to students.

According to Australia’s The Age, Textbook rental service company Zookal has partnered with University of Sydney tech start-up Flirtey to fly rental textbooks directly to users within minutes.

Here’s how it works: Students would order books from rental company Zookal via a smartphone app and one of six unmanned Flirtey drones would immediately deliver the books to students’ doors. Students would be able to track the drones’ progress in real time on a Google map.

The venture is still pending approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority and its backers hope to launch the service in March 2014. 

Flirtey plans to use laser range finders and sonar technology to help guide drones and avoid collisions with buildings, birds, and pedestrians – common problems in past drone experiments. 

According to The Age, a special delivery mechanism “allows for textbooks to be safely lowered to the customer without the drone having to leave its hovering height of about three metres. If gentle force is applied to the drone's lowering cord, the parcel is released.”

From what we can surmise, this venture has more than just novelty going for it. The drones, which can carry up to 4 and a 1/2 lbs, can reduce waiting times to as little as two to three minutes, according to Zookal, and reduce delivery costs dramatically. Same day postal delivery in Australia can cost as much as $29.95, while Flirtey deliveries will cost $2.99.

Drone usage for civilian and commercial purposes is set to explode in coming years. It’s already been utilized by fire departments for surveying emergency situations, by animal rights activists to monitor abuse, by news agencies to obtain footage, and even to target mosquitoes in Florida.

Food companies have climbed aboard, too. Domino’s Pizza ran a test flight of its “DomiCopter” in June in Britain, and Tacocopter has proposed using drones to deliver tacos in San Francisco.

There are humanitarian uses, as well – Flirtey sees potential in using drones to deliver life vests on beaches and to transport life-saving materials to hospitals.

We’re eager to see drones move away from the battlefield and toward new, peaceful fronts – civilian, humanitarian, and yes, literary.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.