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OM in the News: Delivering With Drones and Shooting Down Drones–2 Views

October 8, 2019

Two very interesting articles just appeared regarding the future of drones.

The first, in The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 2, 2019), notes that UPS is now cleared to deliver with drones, with federal approval to start setting up a fleet of unmanned aircraft to deliver health supplies and eventually consumer packages potentially throughout the U.S. The company obtained an immediate green light to ship products in North Carolina hospitals. This broad approval for an entire fleet of future drones and pilots on the ground opens the door for many other types of longer-range applications spanning rural and suburban areas. The first phase includes 100 or more hospital complexes. As delivery options expand, UPS says future steps may include a single operator on the ground controlling multiple flights, or using drones to supplement traditional package delivery by trucks in rural areas. Its goal is to be the first drone operator to operate on a sizable scale.

The second article, in Businessweek (Oct. 7, 2019), is titled “Tech’s Most Controversial Startup Now Makes Drone-Killing Robots.”  Here we learn that the Pentagon has spent years searching for reliable ways to combat consumer drones that have been repurposed as reconnaissance craft or bombers. (The use of miniature quadcopters

Anduril’s Interceptor

for spying or terrorism has long concerned the U.S. The fear was underscored this year when military-grade drones were used in attacks in Saudi Arabia and the Strait of Hormuz, and last year during an assassination attempt in Venezuela using hobbyist drones).

Now, Anduril Industries, a 2-year-old Calif. startup, has begun shipping dozens of its drone-destroying Interceptors to military clients in the U.S. and the U.K.; and has hundreds more in production, with contracts to deploy Interceptors to overseas conflict zones. The Defense Department has pursued various remedies, including jamming drones’ signals and netting them like butterflies. But the idea of electronically disabling or ensnaring a drone without destroying it seemed ludicrous to Anduril. “Why not just shoot it down? All the soft kill systems are a waste of time,” says the firm’s CEO.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Make the case for and against commercial drones in The U.S.
  2.  Why is Anduril called a controversial company?


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