Delivery drones won't be limited to travelling over certain types of terrain, so why should they only deliver to street addresses? That's the thinking behind DelivAir, a new concept from British product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants. It would see clients getting parcels delivered directly to themselves in person, wherever they happened to be.

To use DelivAir, clients would start by requesting a delivery via a smartphone app. Possible scenarios could include a hiker in need of a first aid kit, a stranded cyclist needing a spare inner tube, or even a remotely-located person requiring life-saving equipment such as an EpiPen or defibrillator.

At a store, depot, or other location, the required item would then be loaded onto a drone, which would autonomously fly out to the client's smartphone GPS coordinates. Using the app, the client could in turn check the GPS coordinates of the drone in real time, to see how close it was getting to them.

Once the aircraft was in visual range of the client, they would turn their smartphone's flash toward it. The flash would emit a coded pattern of light pulses, unique to that delivery. This would serve two purposes. First, it would allow the drone to visually home in on the client using precision optical tracking and a 3D imaging/ranging system. Secondly, it would verify that they were indeed the intended recipient.

Upon reaching the client, the drone would then hover safely above them, lowering the parcel down on a 30-meter (98-ft) tether. That tether would retract back into the drone, once the person released it from the package. The drone would then return to its base.

"Drone delivery is fast and ideal for something that is needed immediately. In that case, a consumer wants a delivery directly to them as a person – not to a location," says Nathan Wrench, head of the company's industrial and energy division. "Our DelivAir concept has the potential to revolutionize the delivery process, by removing the address restriction that other drone technologies are limited by."

The system is demonstrated in the video below.

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