Coordinated Logistics with a Truck and a Drone CANCELLED

  • Room: C140
Monday, May 08, 2017: 2:00 PM - 2:30 PM


John Carlsson
Assistant Professor
University of Southern California
Yao-Yi Chiang
Chief Scientist


One of the most talked-about developments in transportation and logistics in recent years has been the potential use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones”, for transporting packages, food, medicine, and other goods. The most famous proof-of-concept of such a service is the “Amazon Prime Air” system, which was introduced in late 2013 and has since undergone several iterations. Other similar systems include Google's “Project Wing”, DHL's “Parcelcopter”, and a joint effort between the Swiss Post, Swiss Worldcargo (the air freight division of Swiss International Air Lines), and the California-based startup Matternet. From a transportation scientist's perspective, many of the benefits of a UAV-based delivery system are obvious: UAVs have a low per-mile cost, can operate without human intervention, and can travel at high speeds while being unaffected by road traffic. The shortcomings of such a system are equally apparent: UAVs have an extremely low carrying capacity and short travelling radius, both of which necessitate frequent returns to a central depot. Thus, a conventional truck delivery system benefits from an economy of scale and suffers from high per-mile costs, whereas a UAV delivery system benefits from low per-mile costs and lacks an economy of scale. Moreover, the data infrastructures and services for navigation are well developed for conventional truck delivery systems but not for UAVs until recently. In a recent research project, we have determined the efficiency of a delivery system in which a UAV provides service to customers while making return trips to a truck that is itself moving. In other words, a UAV picks up a package from the truck (which continues on its route), and after delivering the package, the UAV returns to the truck to pick up the next package. Although the hardware for such systems already exists, it is not yet understood to what extent such an approach can actually provide a significantly improved quality of service. By combining mathematical analysis together with computer simulations, we estimate that such a system is likely to be dramatically more efficient than traditional means. Our experiments used real-time navigational data for UAVs in the low-altitude airspace provided by AirMap to demonstrate the benefit in a real-world setting.


Who Should Attend

Anyone interested in logistics, or the use of drones to deliver packages. Engineers will probably enjoy this a lot, but a general audience will be entertained as well.