You want to make your millions in the near-future urban sprawls of China, India, Europe and the States? Then make what I’m about to talk about into a reality.

It starts with cheap, easily assembled parts – ideally from an open-source 3D printer template – that form a basic, quad-rotor drone. Then, you source old cameras from cellphones. Stuff in the 640×480 pixel range, that’s pretty shit for quality but can get basic shapes in high contrast. Finally, you tack in a cheap cellular GPS unit. Not even one that talks to satellites – I’m talking about one that gets all of its location information from cellular data towers. Hopefully, a decent power supply will give the thing at least a 15 mile round-trip radius, which will can cover most major cities with just a few “base-nodes” for the drones to work out of.

This is your courier. It is cheap, highly mobile, and can transport small packages. Things like left behind cellphones or jackets, legal documents, hard drives, or lunch orders. Things, that for a few bucks a pop, it would probably be more convenient for some one else to move for you.

Requesting a courier could be done through a simple web or device-based app. Give a pick up location, a drop off location and specify if it’s a rush or not. Then, you leave your package in a special pick-up grid somewhere that the drone can get to it – say in your backyard or on a balcony. The drone recognizes the patterning on the grid thanks to the camera, and it knows where to make the pick up. For drop off, it just finds the grid at the end location in the same manner. Clients can be notified of estimated arrival time by email, text message or phone call. And if a client puts out a package that’s too heavy, they can be notified in the exact same manner.

With this drone-based system, you’re cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions from car-base couriers and delivery drivers while opening up a whole new market for personalized delivery and convenience. Plus, as the economy of scale kicks in, the drones will become less and less expensive to manufacture and maintain.

Expect the urban spaces of the future to have a constant thrum of drone engines.

 

Of course, all of this brings up a whole other set of problems.