In a series of posts on his blog, military theorist John Robb outlines what he thinks will be the next big thing — “as big as the internet,” as he puts it. It’s DRONENET: an internet of drones to be used as an automated delivery service. The drones themselves would require no futuristic technology. Modern quadrotor drones are available today for a few hundred dollars, and drone usage would be shared across an open, decentralized network. Robb estimates the cost for a typical delivery at about $0.25 every 10 miles, and points out that the drones would fit well alongside many ubiquitous technologies; the drone network shares obvious parallels with the internet, the drones would use GPS already-common GPS navigation, and the industry would mesh well with the open source hardware/software community. Finally, Robb talks about the standards required for building the DRONENET:“Simple rules for drone weight, dimensions, service ceiling, and speed. Simple rules for battery swap and recharging (from battery type, dimension, etc.). Simple rules for package containers. Simple rules for the dimensions and capabilities of landing pads. … Decentralized database and transaction system for coordinating the network. Rules for announcing a landing pad (information from GPS location and services provided) to the network. Rules for announcing a drone to the network (from altitude to speed to direction to destination). Cargo announcement to the network, weight, and routing (think: DNS routing). A simple system for allocating costs and benefits (a commercial overlay). This commercial system should handle everything from the costs of recharging a drone and/or swapping a battery to drone use.”

IPv6 wireless mesh networking between the drones for 3 reasons:

1) Drones keeping each other informed of their vectors for distributed traffic control.

2) Additional revenue for Internet service provision to wide area near-lines-of-sight of sight to the drones current aloft. This has the added benefit of actually bootstrapping Paul Baran’s original intention of packet-switching [rand.org]: route around the damage which, in this case, is damage to the Internet now potentiated by increasing centralization of internet infrastructure.

3) IPv6 offers the potential to finally put into place what I called “the primary discipline of network architecture” when I was designing Knight-Ridder/AT&T’s multi-city videotex [wikipedia.org] architecture back in the early 80s: “The terminal is merely the host computer nearest the customer.” Getting rid of the client-server paradigm is key to recapturing the internet’s potential.

Get in touch with David P. Reed regarding the strategic approach to take for wireless mesh networking in this new regime [mit.edu].

“I’d strongly encourage people today to ignore the IETF, and get focused on mobile, unlicensed wireless, highly reconfigurable and pervasive networking. Pursue overlays and co-existence, and create the next bigger “Internet” – the universal glue for networking things together. ”

— David P. Reed


The hypothetical network relies on drones, robot aircraft that are cheap and getting cheaper. Robb — who calls the network “DRONENET” at first, later “Dronet” — predicts entrepreneurs will buy fleets of drones, and use them for automated package delivery.

To use Dronet, you would put your package in a container and leave it out in the yard. You’d call a drone using your smartphone. The drone arrives minutes later, picks up the container, and drops it at the recipient’s location. The drone alerts the recipient with an email or text. The cost would be about $0.25 per mile, Robb says.

illo: http://www.webomator.com/2011/02/13/toby-fraleys-recycled-retro-robot-sculptures/


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