Recently drones are being re-engineered for different purposes across the globe, the latest entrant to that list of uses being a passenger drone. Autonomous YS6 is being developed by Martin Warner; a UK based entrepreneur, film producer and inventor carrying out the project through his start-up entity called Autonomous Flight. The YS6 will begin its test flights with people on board by summer of 2018, carrying people from Charing Cross train station to Heathrow Airport in just twelve minutes.
This journey normally takes about an hour by car. Warner is looking forward to a point in time when autonomous passenger drones will morph into an air shuttle system and be enlisted as another form of getting work; he says they will be a common sight within five years. Current flight parameters for Y6S are a maximum cruising speed of 70 miles per hour, 80 miles range and a flight altitude of 1500 feet. Test flights have been previously done but they did not include passengers.
Volocopter and China’s Ehang did their test flights last year. Looking forward also to be a part of the action is Uber with their taxi- drone idea. Uber works with NASA and intends to carry out flight test in Los Angeles; this will be their second test city. While skeptics and enthusiasts alike are watching these latest development with a keen eye, privacy and civil rights issues and concerns of cyber-attacks continue to dominate the drone industry with far reaching effects.
Last year in America, the pentagon issued a nationwide ban on the use of all drone equipment manufactured by China based firm Da-Jiang Innovations. Immigration officials started investigations after documents posted online alleged that data from DJI drones was being shared with Chinese government. In response, DJI stated that they are not privy to information as regards to flight logs, photos or video unless drone users actively shared this content with DJI.
Further to this, DJI developed an offline local data mode hoping that they will restore their image and client trust after the ban. Without dismissing the claims of potential cyber-attacks, Warner said that the only assumption they can make is they are ahead in terms of encryption and constantly they have to review their encryption. He is confident that their use of cutting-edge technology and navigation procedures currently deployed in conventional air-crafts will help win clients in their favor.
He further added that “There are multiple flight redundancies which are multiple uses of technology to ensure that if there is a single point of failure the aircraft will either land or fly you to where you need to be.” Autonomous passenger drones are meant to be used over short distances. Meanwhile the UK government is working on a draft bill to curb illegal use of drones while harnessing the benefits of this technology.
It will be mandatory for larger drone owners to be keyed in a registry and check that their flights occur in areas cleared for take-off. Police will also have powers to ground drones and seize parts of a drone if it there is sufficient reason to believe a drone was used in criminal activities. This is part of a larger effort to ensure that drones fly safely and responsibly in as much as they continue to expand entrepreneurial and public use horizons.
Persons flying large drones are expected to pass safety tests. No-fly zones will be demarcated by the government using geo-fencing technology. Drones are already used on cargo delivery pilot phase in countries such as Malawi for delivery of relief food and medication in remote areas. There is also interest in use of drones by police and fire departments in America with concerns that police can intrude public privacy and even arm drones with lethal weapons.
It remains to be seen whether the Autonomous came at the right time in history and if the prediction about the popularity and domestic use of passenger drones shall stand the test of time. Ensuring that flight data and processes are serialized and tracked, Warner’s focus remains on not just getting people faster to their destination but also arrive safely. Those looking forward to purchase autonomous once they are ready for public consumption should be ready to part with not less than £20, 000 and a maximum £25,000. The Y6S has a carrying capacity of two people at a time.