Look! Up in the sky! It’s ice cream

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune
Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown -

Some day, some sweet day.

I reach in the frig and see that I don’t have enough milk for my morning cereal.

“Alexa, order milk,” I tell the voice-activated computer on the kitchen counter.

Within minutes someone at the store clips a quart to a drone, and off the mechanical marvel flies, to the north, from North Elkin to State Road. In five minutes, the drone flies the four miles and sets the carton down on my front porch step. I’ve hardly had time to pour the cereal and add in the raisins.

My crazy dream? Crazy for not for much longer, I suspect.

Quite a little milestone was reached a couple of weeks ago to our north. For the first time ever, according to news reports, a cutting-edge delivery company sent an package of ice cream and frozen ice pops soaring a mile and a half through the air after a Blacksburg, Virginia, area woman, Brianna Smith, placed an order by mobile app. She and her 2-year-old, Jack, gazed up to the skies in wonderment while sitting on porch steps as a drone dropped his frozen treat in the front yard.

“You did see something historic today,” the director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, Earl Lawrence, commented to The Roanoke Times newspaper. “The U.S. does have package delivery in its future.”

They’re testing home delivery by drone in Virginia. A company called Wing (get it, Wing, heh-heh), part of the Google empire, wants to be the first to take single deliveries to the skies of America “in the near term,” its CEO told the newspaper.

The FAA, which regulates drones in increasingly crowded air space, is keeping a close watch. They’re being careful with this. The government recently started registration of privately owned drones, much like guns, and in an air of caution Elkin Park bans them altogether, for instance.

“I don’t know that the Wright brothers knew how the airlines were going to develop. But that’s what we could be experiencing,” Montgomery County, Virginia, board chairman Chris Tuck told the newspaper. “And I want us to be on the leading edge.”

These days stores are touting new online ordering services with home delivery or pickup points at stores’ front doors. Delivery companies are flexing their commercial muscles with a flush of new business. In my neighborhood, I’m seeing UPS and Fed Ex vans pass almost as often as the U.S. postman/woman.

Can drone delivery be far behind?

While on vacation this past summer, my stepson pulled out his shiny new drone at an overlook. People immediately began walking over with curiosity and questions. I feared a stiff wind, but his little remote-controlled flying machine soared out of sight with perfection.

The drones in Virginia are bigger than the ones on the market now. The Wings’ contraptions have 14 propellers — my stepson’s drone has four — they weigh 10 pounds each and can carry loads up to three pounds each. Their range is six miles for now, and they can fly up to 85 mph. Bad weather can ground them.

In the test project, the drones are hangared at a Virginia Tech site along the New River. When an order is placed, the store or restaurant calls for a drone, which flies first to the supplier. An employee hooks a package to the drone’s strings that hang down in the air.

Computer technology plots the drone’s course and checks the airspace to ensure all is clear. The drones operate automatically, though for the test project a human operator is on standby if needed.

There’s no word on how much a quart of milk would cost in all of this. At least it shouldn’t require a tip.

We’re just gotten a little bit closer to the worlds of “Star Trek” and “The Jetsons.”

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Stephen-Harris-mug-12-07-3.jpgStephen Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune