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Title:
A SYSTEM AND APPARATUS FOR DELIVERY OF ITEMS VIA DRONE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/035578
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A delivery drone including a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle; a wireless communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone; at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time; a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission; and a delivery unit mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present items stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified.

Inventors:
MEIJ, Donald Jeffrey (239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
Application Number:
AU2017/050909
Publication Date:
March 01, 2018
Filing Date:
August 25, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
DOMINO'S PIZZA ENTERPRISES LIMITED (239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
International Classes:
G06Q10/08; B64C39/02
Foreign References:
US20160068264A12016-03-10
US20160189101A12016-06-30
US20160239798A12016-08-18
US20170124789A12017-05-04
US20170320569A12017-11-09
US20170283057A12017-10-05
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CULLENS PTY LTD (Level 32, 239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
A delivery drone including

a) a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle;

b) a wireless communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone;

c) at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time;

d) a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission; and

e) a delivery unit mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present items stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified.

A delivery drone as claimed in claim 1 further including an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance.

A delivery drone as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2 further including at least one detection device to detect features in the local environment for navigation and collision avoidance.

A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the delivery unit is mounted to the unmanned aerial vehicle and has a deployable portion, movable between a stored position for containing one or more items during delivery and a service position wherein the deployable portion is at least partially outside the delivery unit to allow a customer to remove items stored therein.

A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the unmanned aerial vehicle has at least one visual indicator which is variable, to indicate the delivery status of the delivery drone.

A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further including a number of different illumination sources provided for different purposes.

A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further including one or more cameras or other image capturing devices in order to monitor and/or capture the surrounds whilst the drone is on delivery.

8. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further including an on- board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance.

9. A delivery drone as claimed in claim 8 wherein the on-board computer is associated with the wireless communications module, the location receiver and at least one detection device and uses inputs and/or outputs from the location receiver and at least one detection device to autonomously navigate from a home base to at least one delivery location and return to the home base.

10. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further including an onboard computer including a software application to accomplish or partake in a customer identity verification process at each delivery location, controlling access to the delivery unit.

11. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the at least one wireless communications module allows communication to and/or from the drone in the form of requests from the drone for further information or instructions, updates can be received substantially in real time and, second-by- second data as to the location and speed of the drone and/or vector data can be provided from the delivery drone to a remote monitoring system.

12. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the delivery unit includes an external housing which is at least partially hollow defining an internal volume with at least one deployable portion located within the internal volume of the delivery unit, located within the internal volume in a delivery condition and is selectively deployable to a location partially outside the external housing to allow a customer to access and remove items stored within the at least one deployable portion.

13. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the delivery unit deploys once the delivery location has been reached and a customer identification verification process has been completed.

14. A delivery drone as claimed in claim 13 wherein the customer identification verification process is achieved through provision of a customer identification verification code or identifier by the customer to software operating on an on-board computer in order to be compared against a verification code or identifier provided to the customer at the time that the order is made and which is associated with the order, such that once provided to the software operating on the on-board computer, the delivery unit deploys.

15. A delivery drone as claimed in claim 14 wherein the verification code received by the on- board computer of the delivery drone is compared to the verification code created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the customer and if the verification codes match, then the delivery unit deploys.

16. A delivery drone as claimed in claim 14 or claim 15 wherein the verification code creation and/or issue is undertaken by a software application which may be related to or associated with the software application through which the customer orders the item to be delivered.

17. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the delivery drone further includes the ability for drone to contact the customer directly once the delivery location using the at least wireless communications module.

18. A delivery drone as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the at least one location receiver is used to track the location of the drone in real time or near real time.

19. A delivery drone system including a delivery drone including a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle, an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance, a wireless communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time, a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission and a delivery unit mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present items stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified and one or more processing systems operating substantially without human intervention and having a communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, the one or more processing systems configured to assist the delivery drone with navigation from a home base to a delivery location and back to the home base and collision avoidance whilst in transit.

20. A delivery drone system as claimed in claim 19 wherein one or more processing systems are provided for command and control in addition to on-board software.

21. A delivery drone system as claimed in claim 19 or claim 20 wherein including a subsystem for real-time or near real time monitoring of the delivery drone, the system including a drone mounted device associated with each delivery drone, a central server processing system and a home base work station located at the home base of the delivery drone; a. the drone mounted device including

i. at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a

location of the delivery drone in real time or near real time,

ii. a wireless communication module to transfer information relating to the location data and

iii. at least one electrical connection assembly to connect the drone mounted device to a power supply system;

b. at least one identification tool associated with the drone mounted device to

uniquely identify the drone mounted device within the system, the central server processing system to receive the location data from each drone mounted device and based on the location data, to transfer information relating to the real time or near real time location of each drone to the home base workstation; and c. the home base work station including

i. at least one electronic display with a map interface updated in real time or near real time indicating the real-time or near real time location of the delivery drone on the map interface using the information transferred from the central server processing system;

ii. at least one input device for input of data into the home base workstation; and

iii. at least one identification tool reader to read the unique identification tool associated with each delivery drone mounted device to identify the drone mounted device as well as information and data pertaining thereto, within the system.

22. A delivery drone system as claimed in claim 21 wherein the subsystem locates the delivery drone in three dimensional space through the drone mounted device in real time on near real-time using second by second data to give not only the location of the delivery drone and but also direction of travel of the drone and speed of the drone due to the availability of the data used.

23. A delivery drone system as claimed in claim 21 or claim 22 wherein the at least one location receiver interacts with a location network to determine the location of the location receiver and thereby, determine the location of the drone.

A delivery drone system as claimed in any one of claims 19 to 23 wherein the customer utilises an online ordering system to designate whether they wish to have their items delivered via drone.

Description:
A SYSTEM AND APPARATUS FOR DELIVERY OF ITEMS VIA DRONE TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to a system for delivery of items to a remote address, monitoring one or more delivery drone locations and statistics relating thereto.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] An autonomous car (driverless car, self-driving car, robotic car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.

[0003] Autonomous vehicles detect surroundings using radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and/or computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Autonomous cars have control systems that are capable of analysing sensory data to distinguish between different cars on the road, which is very useful in planning a path to the desired destination.

[0004] However, autonomous delivery vehicles have limitations in their use due to the fact that they are required to navigate obstacles in land based travel. One way of removing this or at least lessening impact is to provide other delivery mechanisms such as drone delivery.

[0005] It will be clearly understood that, if a prior art publication is referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that the publication forms part of the common general knowledge in the art in Australia or in any other country.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0006] The present invention is directed to a system for delivery of items to a remote address, monitoring one or more delivery drone locations, which may at least partially overcome at least one of the abovementioned disadvantages or provide the consumer with a useful or commercial choice.

[0007] With the foregoing in view, the present invention in one form, resides broadly in an delivery drone including a) a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle;

b) a wireless communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone;

c) at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time;

d) a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission; and

e) a delivery unit mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present items stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified.

[0008] The delivery drone may additionally include an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance.

[0009] The delivery drone may additionally include at least one detection device to detect features in the local environment for navigation and collision avoidance.

[0010] The delivery unit mounted to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) preferably has a deployable portion, movable between a stored position for containing one or more items during delivery and a service position wherein the deployable portion is at least partially outside the delivery unit to allow a customer to remove items stored therein.

[0011] The UAV preferably has at least one visual indicator which is variable to indicate the delivery status of the delivery drone.

[0012] The on-board computer of the delivery drone preferably operates an onboard software application which controls operation of the drone and the components thereof.

[0013] The delivery drone may be autonomous, partially autonomous or a pilot may pilot the drone using know technology.

[0014] In another form, the present invention includes an delivery drone system including a) A delivery drone including a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle, an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance, a wireless

communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time, a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission and a delivery unit mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present items stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified; b) One or more processing systems operating substantially without human intervention and having a communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, the one or more processing systems configured to assist the delivery drone with navigation from a home base to a delivery location and back to the home base and collision avoidance whilst in transit.

[0015] The delivery drone of the present invention can be utilised to deliver any type of item. In the context of the present specification, the delivery drone is discussed particularly in terms of delivery of fresh or prepared food, and particularly, home delivery of a meal provided by a food preparation store. The drone can deliver food that has been prepared at the food preparation store which is hot and/or cold. For the purposes of the present invention, the term "food" includes beverages as well.

[0016] Typically, the delivery drone will be loaded with prepared food at a home base, normally the food preparation store and the delivery location is provided to the drone. The drone or delivery unit is then "locked", leaves the food preparation store, and navigates autonomously to one or more delivery locations where a customer can access the food for removal after an appropriate verification process has taken place, and the delivery drone then navigates back to the home base (or to one or more further delivery locations and then back to the home base) for further deployment or storage.

[0017] The drone of the present invention typically utilises an unmanned aerial vehicle utilising available technology and preferably including navigation and collision avoidance software in order to move from one location to another. The drone will normally be software controlled in order to be substantially and may be provided with an artificial intelligence allowing self navigation and collision avoidance, but with human intervention possible in situations that the software cannot overcome.

[0018] Generally, the drone will be relatively small, having a footprint of approximately 1 m x 1 m but clearly the size of the UAV will be determined according to the weight and size of an average load to be carried.

[0019] The drone may be of any type but will typically be an electric drone, but alternative power plants may be provided. According to a preferred embodiment, the drone will normally have one or more on-board storage batteries which can be recharged in order to provide power to one or more electric motors to drive the propellers.

[0020] As will be relatively clear from the above, the drone will typically be self operating and self navigating. The drone will typically be capable of operating over substantial distances, preferably up to approximately 20 to 30 km. The drone will be capable of out of line of sight operation.

[0021] The drone will typically include at least one, and typically a number of different illumination sources, with illumination sources provided for different purposes. Preferably, lighting is provided beneath the drone to illuminate downwardly for recognition and location purposes. The drone may be provided with lighting directed forwardly and/or lighting directed rearwardly so that the drone can be easily identified or signal or for use with navigation and/or collision avoidance or feature recognition.

[0022] Whilst illumination sources will typically be provided, it is also preferred that other visual indicia be provided such as reflective portions, luminescent portions, photoluminescent portions and the like in order that the drone be identified well and capable of being clearly seen, even in low light conditions.

[0023] One or more cameras or other image capturing devices may be provided on the drone in general in order to monitor and/or capture the surrounds whilst the drone is on delivery. Normally, this will be capture of images on a real time, and preferably substantially continuous basis by video capture. The captured images may be transmitted to a remote locality for monitoring and/or display purposes and/or stored on board. This may allow a pilot to pilot the drone to the delivery location. This can be assisted by providing the drone pilot with GPS coordinates of the delivery location. These GPA co-ordinates may be obtained as a part of the order, preferably from the personal computing device from which the order is placed.

[0024] The drone of the present invention preferably includes an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance. The on-board software may allow autonomous operation to travel from the home base to one or more delivery locations and return to home base substantially without human intervention unless human intervention is required for situations not solvable by the software.

[0025] Normally, the on-board computer will be associated with the wireless

communications module, the location receiver and the at least one detection device and will typically use inputs and/or outputs from these components to autonomously navigate from the home base to the at least one delivery location and return to the home base with the navigation including avoidance of collisions during the travel.

[0026] The on-board computer will typically operate navigation and collision avoidance software but the on-board computer will also typically include a software application to accomplish or partake in the customer identity verification process at each delivery location, before the deployable portion is deployed. The on-board computer will therefore have one or more separate subsystems with at least one subsystem including hardware and software allowing autonomous navigation and collision avoidance of the drone to one or more delivery locations, and at least one subsystem including hardware and software controlling access to the delivery unit.

[0027] The on-board computer is typically capable of receiving delivery instructions from a point of sale or store management computer system in order to obtain the one or more delivery locations and/or other information required or helpful in the delivery process. The on-board computer is preferably also capable of obtaining or being provided with real-time map or routing information for use in navigation and/or collision avoidance.

[0028] The delivery drone of the present invention also includes at least one wireless communications module allowing for communication to and/or from the drone. In this way, the delivery drone can send and receive information in relation to its location and status and receive updates to allow more efficient operation and/or delivery. Normally, instructions are issued to the on-board computer of the delivery drone via the at least one wireless communications module. Requests from the drone for further information or instructions can be sent via the at least one wireless communications module, updates can be received substantially in real time and importantly, second-by-second data as to the location and speed of the drone and/or vector data can be provided from the delivery drone to a remote monitoring system. Preferably, the at least one wireless communication module will send second-by- second data as to the location and speed of the drone as well as vector data to at least one remote location, normally to a monitoring system to allow the monitoring system to convey this information to the home base (the information can be sent directly to the home base) and/or other interested parties such as for example, the ordering customer as be explained further below.

[0029] The delivery drone of the present invention also includes at least one detection device to detect features in the local environment for navigation and collision avoidance. One or more detection devices can be used and any type or combination of detection devices can be used. Particularly preferred are devices that allow the delivery drone to navigate and identify objects using radar, lidar, location technologies such as GPS, odometry and/or computer-aided vision, virtual reality or augmented reality technology.

[0030] The delivery drone of the present invention also includes a delivery unit mounted to the UAV for containing one or more items during delivery to allow a customer to remove items stored therein once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified. As mentioned above, the delivery unit is typically mounted to the UAV, normally below the UAV.

[0031] The delivery unit preferably includes an external housing. The external housing will normally define an outer shape of the delivery unit and is preferably at least partially arcuate for aesthetic reasons. The housing may have a substantially planar front wall and rear wall. One or more lights may be provided on the front wall and/or rear wall.

[0032] The external housing of the delivery unit is typically at least partially hollow defining an internal volume. At least one deployable portion is located within the internal volume of the delivery unit. The at least one deployable portions is located within the internal volume in the delivery condition and is selectively deployable to a location partially outside the external housing to allow a customer to access and remove the food preferably stored within the at least one deployable portion. In a preferred embodiment, the deployable portion will preferably lower for delivery and raise for storage substantially vertically relative to the external housing as this will contribute to maintaining the stability of the drone.

[0033] More than one deployable portion may be provided and if so, each deployable portion may deploy in different directions however this will typically have an adverse impact on the volume of each of the deployable portions so provision of a single deployable portion is preferred.

[0034] The at least one deployable portion may be divided internally into one or more compartments. The compartments provided may be individually accessible and access to each may be controlled, preferably by the on-board computer and software according to the make up of the particular delivery or deliveries that the drone is making. For example, each compartment may be provided with a door which is lockable and access to any compartment is typically controlled via the verification process. Verification may trigger deployment of the deployable portion and the unlocking of the compartment door.

[0035] It is further preferred that the least one deployable portion may be divided into different functionalities for example, some of the compartments may be heated or hot compartments adapted to temporarily store heated food and some of the compartments may be cooled or cold compartments adapted to temporarily store cooled or frozen food. Where these different functionalities are provided in the same deployable portion, it is preferred that the compartments may be visually distinct from one another, for example, using colour coding to represent the different functionalities. In one preferred embodiment, the cool or cold

compartments may be provided with blue colouring or highlights and the warm or hot compartments provided with red colouring or highlights in order to allow the customer to easily identify the function of the compartments. This may also increase the safety of the device with the customer being warned of warm or hot compartments prior to making contact with those compartments.

[0036] Typically, heated or hot compartments may be insulated and thereby provide passive heat maintenance or alternatively, the compartments can be provided with one or more active heat components. Similarly, cooled or cold compartments may be insulated, providing passive cooling maintenance or alternatively, the compartments can be provided with one or more active cooling components. In some embodiments, a combination of insulation and active components can be provided. Where active heating and/or cooling components are provided, these will normally be powered from the drone power supply, but this may have adverse consequences on the power usage.

[0037] In a particularly preferred embodiment, the delivery unit will typically deploy once the delivery location has been reached and a customer identification verification process has been completed. Normally, the satisfaction of both parameters will be required before deployment commences. The verification process will typically be achieved through the provision of a verification code or identifier by the customer to the delivery drone and preferably, to the software operating on the on-board computer in order to be compared against a verification code or identifier provided at the time the order is made. Typically, the verification code or identifier is created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the ordering customer and is typically provided to the ordering customer upon payment. This is typically achieved using a personal computing device such as a tablet or smart phone or the like, upon which the majority of ordering customers now order this type of delivery using an online ordering interface. In this case, the verification code or identifier can be provided directly to the personal computing device of the ordering customer. If the order is made on a non-mobile computing device, the customer can elect to have the verification code or identifier forwarded to a mobile or personal computing device. Alternatively, the verification code or identifier can be provided from a central server or computer network. For example, a customer may transmit a message or signal to a central server or computer network, possibly through an online ordering interface or monitoring interface (discussed below) and the central server or computer network may then signal the drone to deploy the deployable portion. [0038] Other verification systems may be used. For example, one or more verification systems involving biometric data unique to a customer may be used. For example, a unique fingerprint, optical scan or even a mechanism including a physical sample such as breath or skin for example may be used. If implemented in this configuration, each customer will typically require a unique profile to be created which stores at least one biometric control sample of data which is unique to each customer. The biometric control sample can be created or captured in any way and typically, the customer will provide the biometric control sample to be stored against their unique customer profile. Normally the profiles will be stored in at least one database accessible by the one or more processing systems. During the verification process, the delivery drone will typically access the ordering customers unique profile in order to compare a biometric sample provided during the verification process by the customer, with the at least one biometric control sample stored in the unique customer profile and if there is a match, then the deployable portion will typically open and if there is not a match, the customer can be prompted to retry and/or failure to provide a matching biometric sample will result in the deployable portion remaining locked and potentially, the delivery drone returning to home base.

[0039] Typically, the ordering customer will take the device upon which the order was made or the mobile or personal computing device to which the verification code or identifier was forwarded with them to collect their food from the delivery drone. The verification process can be initiated a variety of ways, one way in which it may be initiated is simply through proximity of the mobile or personal computing device to the food delivery drone. In other words, once the mobile or personal computing device moves within range of the food delivery drone, the verification process may be initiated automatically. Alternatively, the verification process may be manually commenced by the customer once they are close to the food delivery drone such as through interaction with an interface generated on the personal computing device (pressing a "button" for example).

[0040] Preferably, the at least one wireless communications module of the delivery drone may be used to communicate with the mobile or personal computing device of the customer. One mechanism for doing so is Bluetooth or WiFi. For example, Bluetooth allows the identification of electronic devices to one another and either the delivery drone can "find" the mobile or personal computing device of the customer or vice versa. Once a communication pathway has been established between the devices, the verification code may be transmitted from the mobile or personal computing device of the customer to the delivery drone. The verification code received by the on-board computer of the delivery drone can be compared to the verification code created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the customer and if the verification codes match one another, then the deployable portion deploys. If the verification codes do not match, then the deployable portion does not deploy, and remained secured with in the delivery drone.

[0041] The verification process may include multifactor verification. For example, the verification process may include the verification code and additionally may require the presence of a particular mobile computing device from which the order was placed within a particular proximity to the delivery drone in order that the delivery drone can verify both the code, and that the code was issued to and from the particular mobile computing device.

[0042] The verification code creation and/or issue is typically undertaken by a software application which may be related to or associated with the software application through which the customer orders the item to be delivered. The verification code software may allow the verification code to be sent or forwarded to a third-party to allow a third-party to receive delivery of the ordered food. For example, a parent may order a food delivery for children to be delivered to the children at a residential address and may therefore forward the verification code to the children to allow them to access the delivery drone to receive delivery of the food ordered by their parents if their parents are at a remote location from the residential address.

[0043] Once the verification process has been completed, that is the verification code provided to the delivery drone by the customer (preferably via a personal computing device) matches the verification code relating to the particular delivery provided by the ordering software, the deployable portion will deploy allowing the customer to remove the items from the deployable portion. The deployable portion will then close and lock in order to secure the deployable portion within the housing once more. The closing process may be actuated by the removal of items and therefore, one or more weight sensors may be provided in order to sense changes of weight in the deployable portion or alternatively, a manually actuable button or similar may be provided on the inside of the deployable portion in order to allow the customer to close the deployable portion once they have removed their food. Typically, safety features will be provided to prevent the deployable portion closing prematurely in order to minimise injury to customers or third parties.

[0044] The delivery drone may further include the ability for drone to contact the customer directly once the delivery location has been reached if verification is not initiated within a particular time period. This may include via text message or telephone with an automated message such as "your delivery has arrived and is awaiting collection". Typically the contact details will be provided to the delivery drone with the order information and the onboard computer may action the contact if delivery location has been reached if verification is not initiated within a particular time period.

[0045] The delivery drone preferably has at least one visual indicator which is variable to indicate the delivery status of the food delivery drone. The at least one visual indicator will typically enable customers and third parties to distinguish between a delivery drone which is en route to a delivery location, allow identification of when verification is being undertaken and when a delivery drone is en route to the home base following a completed delivery to a customer. Typically, the at least one visual indicator will include one or more lights or similar and preferably, the lights will be capable of being lit in various colours to distinguish between the particular phases of delivery. Different coloured lights can be provided all one light system that is capable of being lit in different colours may be provided.

[0046] Although any colour system can be used, a preferred colour system may be designed in the corporate colours of the provider of the delivery service. For example, the colour red can be used to signify that the delivery drone is on the outbound leg to a delivery location, the colour blue can be used when the delivery drone is undertaking the verification process and the colour white can be used to signify that the delivery drone is on the return leg to the home base.

[0047] Preferably, the lighting system used for the visual indication of status is provided on or in association with the deployable portion. In a particularly preferred embodiment, a lighting strip is provided circumferentially at least partially about an upper portion of the deployable portion on top of the delivery unit as, from this position, it will typically be viewable easily, even from a distance.

[0048] The delivery unit will also typically be provided with advertising indicating the provider of the delivery service and the advertising will preferably be illuminated.

[0049] The delivery drone of the present invention will also typically include one or more antitheft or anti-tampering features in order to prevent theft or tampering with the food in the delivery unit and/or with the drone itself. For example, one or more alarms or warnings may be triggered if the food delivery drone is interrupted order averted or attempted to be interrupted or diverted from the plotted or selected delivery path. Typically, the warning will be issued, typically either audibly and/or visibly and if the warning is not effective, then a loud, audible alarm will typically be issued.

[0050] Of course, at least one location receiver can be used to track the location of the drone in real time or near real time. The drone may also have the ability to automatically notify home base, or third-party such as a monitoring system or authorities such as the police if tampering or attempts are made to divert the drone.

[0051] Preferably, the delivery drone is robust in order to minimise any damage that may be inflicted on the delivery unit and to prevent access to the deployable portion and/or the food within and unless the verification process is undertaken.

[0052] The deployable portion into which food is placed for delivery may also be capable of preparing or cooking the food whilst the delivery is in progress. For example, the cooking time of various foods can usually be identified quite accurately. For example, the time taken to cook a pizza at a particular temperature will typically be more or less fixed. Generally speaking, the time taken to cook a pizza is less than the time taken to actually deliver the pizza if for example a pizza takes 8 minutes to cook but 20 minutes to reach the delivery location, then the pizza will not be as fresh as it could be because it will have been in the food delivery drone for 20 minutes after being cooked in store. In one embodiment, the deployable portion of the present invention may cook the food during the delivery process. The food may be prepared at a particular store or home base location, and loaded in an uncooked state into the deployable portion which is then locked in the delivery commences. The on-board software can then be instructed to commence cooking at an appropriate time during the delivery given the estimated time of arrival at the delivery location. In other words, a pizza can be loaded into the deployable portion in the raw form, and the cooking process can commence automatically approximately 8 minutes from the delivery location in order that the pizza arrive at the delivery location at substantially the same time that the cooking process ends. In this way, the customer can be provided with the freshest food possible and minimise the "dead" time in between cooking and the customer taking delivery of the food in which time, the food quality can deteriorate, sometimes quite rapidly. As the drone of the present invention can be programmed with the cooking time and is also capable of calculating the estimated time of arrival at the delivery location, the drone can be charged with starting the cooking and cooking the food whilst the delivery is underway in order to ensure that the food arrive at the delivery location at substantially the same time that the cooking process ends.

[0053] According to the system of the present invention, one or more processing systems may be provided for command and control in addition to the on-board software. Preferably, the system will provide for real-time tracking of the location and status of the delivery drone and for management thereof.

[0054] Instructions and/or updates can be sent from the one or more processing systems to the on-board computer and/or software for action. For example, a recall to base instruction can be issued, the drone can issue alerts to the home base, or one or more external systems can be provided to assist with an/or override the navigation and/or collision avoidance system is present in the drone. The one or more processing systems can additionally provide rousing data updates in order to more efficiently plan the delivery and/or may plan delivery routs and transfer these to the delivery drone.

[0055] The system of the present invention may include a subsystem for real-time or near real time monitoring of the food delivery drone, the system including a drone mounted device associated with each food delivery drone, a central server processing system and a home base work station located at the home base of the food delivery drone; a) the drone mounted device including

i. at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the delivery drone in real time or near real time,

ii. a wireless communication module to transfer information relating to the location data and

iii. at least one electrical connection assembly to connect the drone mounted device to a power supply system; at least one identification tool associated with the drone mounted device to uniquely identify the drone mounted device within the system, b) the central server processing system to receive the location data from each drone mounted device and based on the location data, to transfer information relating to the real time or near real time location of each drone to the home base workstation; and c) the home base work station including

i. at least one electronic display with a map interface updated in real time or near real time indicating the real-time or near real time location of the delivery drone on the map interface using the information transferred from the central server processing system;

ii. at least one input device for input of data into the home base workstation; and iii. at least one identification tool reader to read the unique identification tool

associated with each delivery drone mounted device to identify the drone mounted device as well as information and data pertaining thereto, within the system. [0056] The subsystem is directed toward real-time monitoring of delivery drones and the deliveries being delivered. The system is based on interaction with an automated drone location system which may or may not be a proprietary system owned by third party.

[0057] It is preferred that the subsystem locate the delivery drones through the drone mounted device in real time on near real-time. It is particularly preferred that the drone mounted device allow the location of the delivery drone based on information collected on a second by second basis and also vector data to compile and analyse drone behaviour. The collected information may be sent as collected or a packet of information collected over a period, preferably a short period, may be sent periodically. Due to the second by second data and vector data, the drone location system is typically able to give not only the location of the food delivery drone and but also the direction of travel of the drone and the speed of the drone due to the availability of the data used.

[0058] The subsystem includes multiple parts that operate together to track the location of the delivery drone through the drone mounted device and also to keep record of data from each delivery drone mounted device in order to keep the home base workstation informed and/or to log data in relation to each food delivery drone. This allows not only tracking of the food delivery drones, but also management of the food delivery drones, the deliveries themselves including dispatch management, safety record management, maintenance records and management-end forensic examination in case of any issues or problems.

[0059] The subsystem includes a drone mounted device associated with each drone. The drone mounted device may be mounted temporarily to the drone or but preferably permanently.

[0060] The drone mounted device includes at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the delivery drone in real time. As mentioned above, second by second and vector data is normally provided and this will allow the location and direction of travel of the drone to be determined substantially in real time or near real-time, limited only by the processing ability and connectivity of the system.

[0061] The at least one location receiver will typically interact with a location network to determine the location of the location receiver and thereby, determine the location of the drone. In a particularly preferred form, the at least one location receiver will be a GPS receiver.

[0062] Preferably, the location is determined as close as possible to real time. This is particularly powerful when based on second by second or breadcrumb data, as it allows the tracking of location precisely and preferably dynamically over time rather than prior art systems which only collect location data at particular time steps which can be separated by five or more seconds. Those systems give no feedback as to what has occurred between the time steps. In contrast, a second by second data feed allows capture of information on a second by second basis. The data collected is typically position or location data including elevation is possible (this may involve additional hardware but provided that the drone if fitted with a transmitter and iOSD and/or a camera, known systems can calculate the real time altitude of the drone) but due to the second by second data, this also allows the calculation of speed and direction based on the data.

[0063] The drone mounted device also preferably includes a wireless communications module to transfer information relating to the location data. The wireless communication module preferably transfers the information to the central server processing system of the present invention. The wireless communication module may be integrated with the location receiver or be separate thereto. Where separated, typically, the wireless communication module and the location receiver are provided in the same housing. This typically allows the wireless communication module and location receiver to draw power from the same source although this is not strictly necessary.

[0064] The wireless communication module can operate based on any wireless system, for example, cell phone networks, radio networks, data networks and the like. Most commonly, the location is determined using GPS, and the wireless communications module is based on SMS, GPRS, a satellite or terrestrial radio from the drone to a radio receiver. GSM is the most common services applied, because of the low data rate needed for automated drone location, and the low cost and near-ubiquitous nature of these networks. The low bandwidth requirements also allow for satellite technology to receive telemetry data at a moderately higher cost, but across a global coverage area and into very remote locations not covered well by terrestrial radio or public carriers.

[0065] The wireless communications module will typically have a hard wired connection to the power source and any interconnections with the location receiver but one or more wireless communications pathways from the wireless communications module.

[0066] The drone mounted device also preferably includes at least one electrical connection assembly to connect the drone mounted device to a power supply system of the delivery drone. This preferably allows the delivery drone to provide the operating power to the drone mounted device and the components thereof. Typically, a hard wired connection is provided between the power supply system of the delivery drone and the drone mounted device. Normally, a cable or similar with an appropriate adapter, attaches to or accesses the drone power system.

[0067] One or more battery devices or systems may be provided in the drone mounted device in order to prevent complete power down of the drone mounted device and/or components or to power at least temporarily.

[0068] Preferably, particularly in the temporary delivery drone embodiment, all of the components are typically installed in the main drone housing.

[0069] The subsystem also preferably includes at least one identification tool associated with the drone mounted device to uniquely identify the drone mounted device within the system. As mentioned above, the identification tool may be attached to the drone mounted device, or alternatively, can be provided separately to the drone mounted device, but associated with the drone mounted device. In some embodiments, the system can identify a particular component of the system, such as the GPS receiver and use that identification to identify the drone mounted device uniquely within the system.

[0070] Any type of identification tool can be used and the configuration will typically depend upon the type of drone mounted device. The identification tool can be or include a barcode device, a radio frequency identification chip or tag or other type of device which has or is associated with, a unique identification code or similar to uniquely identify the tool and thereby the drone mounted device, within the system. The identification tool will preferably allow information collected in relation to one drone mounted device to be identified as being associated with or collected from that particular drone mounted device.

[0071] The identification tool is used to identify the drone mounted device and through the drone mounted device, the delivery drone. The identification tool will normally allow permanent identification of the particular drone mounted device with which it is associated.

[0072] The system of the present invention also includes a central server processing system to receive the location data from each of drone mounted devices and based on the location data, to transfer information relating to the real-time location of each drone to the home base workstation. The central server processing system is normally remotely located from the home base workstation and the respective drone mounted devices. The central server processing system is typically associated with an automatic drone location system which provides information to the central server processing system. Preferably, this system is not an event activated tracking system but an automated drone location system based on the provision of second by second location data provided from the at least one location receiver of each drone mounted device. The central server processing system therefore preferably includes management functionality in addition to the automatic drone location system functionality (which is may simply adopt from an external system) allowing a company to manage a fleet of drones each of which is associated with a particular home base.

[0073] The drone location system may be operated or administered by a system

administrator which is separate to the operator of the delivery drone. Normally, the drone location algorithm is located on a server or web platform and the location information is used by the automatic drone location system and the server or web platform then transmits information relating to the real-time location of each drone to the home base workstation of the particular drone. Therefore, the drone location system which is a part of or is accessed by the central server processing system is typically a "fat client" undertaking information processing and storage by or on a computer network or server and then provides that information to the central server processing system of the present invention.

[0074] The home base workstation preferably receives information from the central server processing system. The home base workstation may provide information to the central server processing system for example, information relating to login or association of drone mounted devices with particular drones and/or drivers.

[0075] The central server processing system may interact with other components of the system to transfer information to and/or receive information from other components of the system. According to the most preferred embodiment, the central server processing system communicates with the homebase workstations of a number of different home bases and also stores or causes information to be stored in an information log which is accessible by a corporate manager of the respective home bases. In a conventional delivery network, each of the drones typically works from home base and each homebase has a particularly defined delivery area. Therefore, information in relation to each drone should be available at each homebase as well as to the overall manager of the delivery network.

[0076] As mentioned above, the automatic drone location system is normally external to the particular delivery company and the delivery company simply accesses the automatic drone location system via the central server processing system. Communication between the delivery company via the central server processing system and the automatic drone location system may be via middleware.

[0077] As mentioned above, the central server processing system in association with the automatic drone location system is typically responsible for determining the location of the drones within the system and for processing information in relation thereto to allow the other components of the system, preferably the homebase workstations, to be "thin clients" or at least "thinner clients" than the central server processing system. The bulk of the processing and storage of information will therefore preferably take place in the central server processing system and/or automatic drone location system rather than at the homebase workstations, but the homebase workstations will typically be capable of at least some processing and data storage.

[0078] Information is typically accessed within the system through the central server processing system. Queries are generally submitted to the central server processing system and databases storing the information are typically accessed via the central server processing system as required or as pursuant to a request. Preferably, the particular operation of the automatic drone location system does not form a part of the present invention which is more directed towards the use of the information, particularly by the homebase workstations and as a part of delivery company management, within the invention.

[0079] The system of the present invention also includes a home base workstation including at least one electronic display with a map interface updated in real time indicating the real-time location of the drones on the map interface using the information transferred from the central server processing system. Preferably, the information is pushed to the home base workstation from the central server processing system rather than pursuant to a request from the home base workstation.

[0080] According to a particularly preferred embodiment, multiple home base workstations are provided in a delivery network and each home base workstation normally has a number of drone mounted devices which are particularly associated with that home base workstation. For example, a single company may have a number of stores, and each store may have a number of drones which are responsible for delivering the products from each of the stores. Each of the drones will normally have a drone mounted device assignable to it. Therefore, the home base workstation at each store will typically have the ability to track the location of each of the drones which deliver from that store. The company will also typically have management capabilities to track the location of each drone from each of the stores as well as to maintain information in relation to each drone from each of the stores, but to drill down to each store and preferably, to each drone and/or driver in any one or more of the stores. Typically, the system will report the location of each drone to its respective home base workstation but will not necessarily report the location to other homebase workstations. [0081] The information provided typically allows the home base workstation to plot the location of each drone of that home base on the electronic display on the map interface, in real time.

[0082] The at least one electronic display may be of any type. Typically, the electronic display will be a device such as a monitor or view screen. Preferably, the electronic display will display the map interface only and substantially at all times in which the system is operating. Normally, the electronic display will display the location of the drones on the map interface without allowing any interaction with the system through the electronic display.

[0083] The map interface displayed on the electronic display will preferably be limited to the particular delivery area of the home base from which the drone operates or have the particular delivery area of the homebase delineated clearly. One particularly preferred method of delineation is to show the delivery area in full colour and resolution and to display areas outside the delivery area in a darkened or obscured display, which is still visible on the map interface, but which is clearly outside the delivery area. The particular delivery area may have a border surrounding it in order to further demarcate the delivery area. It is particularly preferred according to the present invention that the delivery area be defined as a geo-fence in order to allow a store manager or other operator within a particular home base to identify if a delivery drone strays outside the delivery area for the particular store.

[0084] The map interface is typically produced by or at the local workstation based on information received from the central server processing system and particularly from the automatic drone location system.

[0085] The map interface is typically generated using an existing map provider. The most popular map provider will typically be Google Maps. The system of the present invention will typically generate the map interface on the display using information obtained from an existing map provider such as Google Maps. Information obtained from an existing map provider will typically include other information which will also typically be useful to the management of deliveries. The map interface may be an aerial view, in 3 -Dimensions or a satellite view or similar.

[0086] The map interface will also preferably have an automatic zoom function. There will of course be periods where one drone having a drone mounted device is on a delivery and times where more than one drone having drone mounted devices are on delivery. The map interface will typically automatically zoom in and/or out to show the delivery area in relation to drones on delivery. If only a single drone is on delivery, then the map interface will typically zoom in to that particular area and then will expand as more drones leave on deliveries and then

expand/contract/change shape and focus as required as delivery drones return and/or leave.

[0087] Preferably, the system of the present invention operates to only show active deliveries in progress on the map interface. Information is typically provided in real time on the map interface updated in real time or near real time. The map interface may be static or fixed and changes displayed in one or more overlays. Normally, an icon is provided for each delivery drone. A trip timer and/or leg timer may be provided in order to allow management to view the elapsed time on delivery for each drone. Normally, changes in the delivery legs will normally be determined via changes in ignition status of drone, collected from the drone via the drone mounted device as explained above.

[0088] There will typically be a number of different legs about which records are logged by the system and which may be illustrated on the map interface or on a related interface in order to allow management of the home base to determine the efficiency of the deliveries. In particular, there will typically be an "outward leg" during which the delivery drone has left the store and is on its way to the delivery point. This will typically be indicated on the map interface in a particular way, normally using a particular colour. The colour green is a particularly preferred colour for the outward leg. Preferably, the subsystem determines that the delivery is on the outbound leg through the loading and delivery of the food detected by deployment of the deployable portion. For example, when the employee loads the food into the delivery drone, there will normally be an "initiate delivery" activation and this can be confirmed using location data as the drone moves off.

[0089] A second, "at delivery leg" occurs when the delivery drone is at the delivery point. This will typically be indicated on the map interface in a particular way, normally using a particular colour, different to the outward leg colour. The colour dark blue is a particularly preferred colour for indicating that the drone is at the delivery point. Preferably, the system determines that the delivery is at the delivery point using location data and this can be confirmed if the verification process commences and then the "at delivery" leg typically ends when the deployable portion closes, signalling that the delivery has been completed and this can be confirmed using location data as the drone moves off.

[0090] A third, "homebound" leg occurs when the drone is returning to the home base. This will typically be indicated on the map interface in a particular way, normally using a particular colour different to both the colour used for each of the outward leg and at delivery leg. The colour orange is a particularly preferred colour for indicating that the delivery drone is on the homebound leg. Preferably, the system determines that the delivery driver is on the homebound leg and returning to the home base using location data and the homebound leg ends when the location data matches the home base location.

[0091] Additional legs may be provided such as for example where a delivery drone takes more than one delivery on a single run. If this occurs, then one or more intermediate delivery legs will typically exist between the "at delivery" leg and the homebound leg. The system will typically have interaction with an order dispatch system or order management system which will typically be able to adjust when a drone has been assigned more than one delivery on a single delivery run.

[0092] Preferably, the appearance of the preferred icon indicating the delivery drone will normally adjust depending upon the particular leg which the delivery drone is currently on. Preferably, the preferred icon indicating the delivery drone may appear on the map interface when an order is designated to a delivery drone but preferably, only appears once the drone has actually begun the trip.

[0093] The status of the delivery drone will preferably be indicated in different ways on the map interface in order to allow a home base manager to easily recognise the legs and distinguish between the legs of each of the deliveries currently in progress. This will typically allow the home base manager to manage the delivery sequence and/or preparation time for products, more easily. As mentioned above, the status of the delivery drone and the particular leg of the drone, is normally indicated on the map interface using colours but any other identification can be used.

[0094] It is further preferred that the speed of the drone is indicated on or in relation to the preferred icon indicating the delivery drone on the map interface. The preferred icon may also indicate the particular location and/or drone designator. The drone may additionally have height restrictions for operation. For example, there may be an operating ceiling and an operating floor and the drone will typically operate on delivery substantially within these restrictions. It is preferred that takeoff and landing are substantially at the food preparation store. It is preferred that the drone remain airborne during the delivery, even when the deployable unit is deployed.

[0095] The map interface may not indicate the end point or ultimate destination of the delivery until the end point or ultimate destination is reached. At that time, the status of the delivery will typically change and the representation of the icon will typically change accordingly. The map interface will typically show the path taken by the delivery drone, normally both outward and on the return leg until the drone arrives at the home base store with the different legs indicated differently and then, once sign in has been achieved, the map interface will typically refresh and remove the path taken. An ETA at the home base may be calculated and displayed on the map interface based on the length of the outward leg and/or prevailing conditions obtained from the map provider.

[0096] Normally, if a drone with a fitted drone mounted device leaves the store without a delivery assigned to it, then the icon on the map interface will typically identify this. Normally, the icon will be coloured red for example, indicating that the drone has left the store without assigning a delivery thereto.

[0097] Further, if an unassigned drone mounted device leaves the store, in other words a drone mounted device that has not yet been associated with a drone using the assignment system, the icon on the map interface will typically identify this. Again, the icon can be coloured red for example. This allows the home base manager to easily identify that drones have left the store either without a delivery or without properly assigning a drone mounted device to the drone. In instances, assigning a delivery to the drone may be a necessary precursor step before the drone will leave the home base as until the assignment takes place, the drone will typically not have a delivery location, only obtaining a delivery location as a result of the delivery assignment.

[0098] Further functionality may be added to the map interface. For example, the map interface may be updated with real-time alerts as to the activity or behaviour of drones which are on delivery. For example, a real-time alert may be issued if a drone exceeds the speed limit. Preferably, there can be a tiered real-time alert for example, a real-time alert may issue if a drone exceeds the posted speed limit on a road by 10 km for a period of 10 seconds or alternatively, a real-time alert may issue if a driver exceeds the speed limit by 15 km at any time regardless of the length of exceeding the speed limit. Typically, the posted speed limit on roads is also obtained from the existing map provider.

[0099] Still further, the system is preferably adapted to determine when the drone is operating dangerously due to the second by second data.

[0100] The home base workstation and more particularly, a software application operating on the home base workstation, typically interacts with an order dispatch software application and/or a delivery management application. These applications may operate on a network which is different to but accessible by the home base workstation or on a single network accessible by all applications. [0101] Typically, an instore operator will assign deliveries to the drone when the delivery is ready for delivery. According to the system of the present invention, when a delivery is assigned in an order management system, information preferably begins to be shared with the drone on board computer device and the automatic drone location system operating on the central server processing system in order to log information relating to the delivery. Preferably, the central server processing system will normally assign the particular order or delivery to a particular drone and information is thereafter typically collected via the drone mounted device in relation to that particular order or delivery.

[0102] The home base workstation will preferably have a processor associated therewith in order to generate and display the map interface but also to receive input from at least one input device in order to control the appearance of the map interface as well as interact with software applications operating on the home base workstation or in association with the home base workstation.

[0103] The home base workstation will also typically include at least one input device for input of data into the home base workstation. As mentioned above, the home base workstation will normally include at least one processor. Any number and any type of input device can be provided to allow input or interaction with the home base workstation.

[0104] According to a particularly preferred embodiment, a touchscreen control panel associated with the processor as a part of the home base workstation will be provided. This is normally in addition to the identification tool reader. Further, there may be other input devices such as a keyboard and/or pointer device such as a mouse, associated with the processor as a part of the home base workstation. The provision of the touchscreen control panel and the keyboard and/or mouse will preferably allow operators at the home base workstation to interact with the system through the touchscreen control panel primarily and the keyboard and/or pointer device as required, given that the electronic display with the map interface is for display only.

[0105] Preferably, the touchscreen control panel may be used to control the home base workstation computer processor. As mentioned above, the home base workstation will normally have more limited functionality than the central server processing system, but there will preferably be functionality accessible at the home base workstation for management purposes.

[0106] In particular, the home base workstation computer processor will typically generate and display one or more touch actuable "buttons" on the touchscreen control panel. For example, a button is typically provided for each available delivery drone to identify the available delivery drones to store management and to allow staff to interact with each available delivery drone and the system. These buttons will typically appear on the touchscreen control panel as the delivery drones return to the home base as detected by the location device operating in association with the home base workstation computer processor.

[0107] The particular delivery drone button will normally also indicate the status of the delivery drone. For example, drones on delivery will typically be visually distinguished from those with no assignment but which are available. This will typically allow management to easily identify which drones are available and which are not. Normally, in order to associate or assign an order to a drone, staff will typically use the identification tool to identify the drone to the system using the identification tool reader. The information obtained during this step will also typically be provided to the central server processing system for use by the automatic drone location system.

[0108] There will also typically be an address look up function "button" and an

administration "button".

[0109] An administrator, normally a store manager can typically use the Administration portion of the application operating on the touchscreen control panel to remove drones from availability for selection, as required. For example, it will typically be advisable to remove a drone which is currently unavailable for delivery, such as one has broken down or is being serviced, from those available for selection. Typically, the administrator will normally do this by marking that particular drone as not being capable of selection, until it is re-added to the system.

[0110] The administration portion of the application operating on the touchscreen control panel can also be used to manually adjust the zoom level of the map interface on the display. Other parameters may be adjustable using a "settings" functionality accessible through the administration portion of the application.

[0111] One or more waypoints may be provided to the drone. It may be possible to look at more than one address, and have the system plot that optimum delivery route for more than one address on a single delivery run.

[0112] The touchscreen control panel will typically also be capable of displaying a map interface thereon showing drone locations relative to the map interface as well as the delivery status. The map interface will typically be similar to that displayed on the electronic display of the home base workstation, but separately from the electronic display at the home base workstation such that the electronic display on the home base workstation always displays a map interface showing the location of the deliveries.

[0113] The touchscreen control panel may also indicate the connection status to the central server processing system and/or the automatic drone location system.

[0114] The home base workstation of the present invention also preferably includes at least one identification tool reader to read the identification tool of each drone mounted device to uniquely identify the drone mounted device as well as information and data pertaining thereto within the system. In essence, the system of the present invention will maintain information based on the identity of the drone mounted device and the association of each drone mounted device to an individual drone.

[0115] Each of the drones within the system may have a unique profile which will typically be stored in a database associated with the system. The home base administrator, manager or store manager will normally have the ability to approve profiles.

[0116] As mentioned above, the system for real-time monitoring of drones will preferably integrate with a delivery management system. It is also preferred that the system for real-time monitoring of drones will integrate with an online ordering system provided by a company providing the products to be delivered. In particular, a portion of the information from the system for real-time monitoring of drones may be provided to an online ordering system in order to allow a customer to receive real-time updates about the location of their order during the delivery process.

[0117] According to a preferred form, an interface is typically produced based on information from the system for real-time monitoring of drones to show the location of the delivery relative to the customer or delivery point once the delivery has moved within a particular separation distance from the customer or delivery point. This will allow a user to identify how far away the delivery actually is in order to prepare for the delivery. According to the most preferred form, when on multiple delivery runs, the information provided will typically be for the particular customer's delivery only, and not the entire run.

[0118] A middleware software application may be provided that allows external access to the central server processing system on a tablet or smartphone for example. Preferably, this middleware application will allow a store manager or franchisee for example to access the management portion of the system which is also accessed from the home base workstation.

[0119] a particularly preferred form, a software application is provided with embedded functionality allowing the production of a location interface showing the delivery. Normally, the embedded functionality will be a part of a whole of concept online order and delivery tracking system. This functionality will typically operate as an extension of the system for real-time monitoring of drones of the present invention and information gathered from the system for realtime monitoring of drones will typically be provided to the whole of concept online order and delivery tracking system. This will typically be a web-based system with one or more downloadable software applications which can be downloaded to a customer personal computing device such as a smart phone or tablet for example.

[0120] It is also preferably possible for a customer to utilise an online ordering system to designate whether they wish to have their items delivered via drone. This may attract a fee.

[0121] The customer will preferably be able to take delivery of their ordered items once the drone has reached the delivery address and a notification is sent to the customer, normally on the personal computer device used to place the order such as a smartphone or tablet and the user can then go outside, visually locate the drone and initiate the verification process to access their items.

[0122] Any of the features described herein can be combined in any combination with any one or more of the other features described herein within the scope of the invention.

[0123] The reference to any prior art in this specification is not, and should not be taken as an acknowledgement or any form of suggestion that the prior art forms part of the common general knowledge.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0124] Preferred features, embodiments and variations of the invention may be discerned from the following Detailed Description which provides sufficient information for those skilled in the art to perform the invention. The Detailed Description is not to be regarded as limiting the scope of the preceding Summary of the Invention in any way. The Detailed Description will make reference to a number of drawings as follows:

[0125] Figure 1 is a schematic illustration of an interface generated and displayed on a personal computing device showing the real-time location of a delivery drone according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0126] Figure 2 is a is a schematic illustration of an interface generated and displayed on a personal computing device showing the "arrival" of the drone and prompting the customer to being the customer verification process according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0127] Figure 3 is a schematic illustration of an interface generated and displayed on a personal computing device as an alternative to that illustrated in Figure 2.

[0128] Figure 4 is a front elevation view of a delivery drone according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0129] Figure 5 is an isometric elevation view of a delivery drone according to a further preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0130] Figure 6 is an isometric elevation view of a delivery container according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0131] Figure 6A is a schematic illustration of a drone delivery system deploying a deployable container to a customer according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0132] Figure 6 is a schematic illustration showing the general delivery process according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0133] Figure 7 is a schematic illustration of the system of the present invention according to a preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0134] According to a particularly preferred embodiment of the present invention, a delivery drone 100 is provided.

[0135] In the preferred embodiment illustrated in Figures 4 to 6 in particular, the delivery drone 100 includes a) a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle;

b) a wireless communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone;

c) at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time;

d) a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission; and e) a delivery unit 101 mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present the item stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified.

[0136] The delivery unit 101 mounted to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) preferably has a deployable container 102, movable between a stored position relative to the delivery unit 101 during delivery and a service position wherein the deployable portion 102 is at least partially outside the delivery unit 101 to allow a customer to remove items stored therein or the deployable container itself. In the preferred embodiment, the deployable container 102 is provided with an attachment point 103 to attach the deployable container 102 to a cable or similar allowing the delivery unit to release the deployable container 102 and lower it to the customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified whilst the drone 100 remains airborne.

[0137] The on-board computer of the delivery drone preferably operates an onboard software application which controls operation of the drone and the components thereof.

[0138] The delivery drone of the preferred embodiment is piloted from the dispatch location to the delivery location by a human pilot using known technology.

[0139] In another form, the present invention includes an delivery drone system including c) A delivery drone including a motorised, unmanned aerial vehicle, an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance, a wireless

communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the drone in real time or near real time, a signal receiver to receive a customer identification transmission and a delivery unit mounted to the drone for containing one or more items during delivery and to present items stored therein to a customer once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified;

d) One or more processing systems operating substantially without human intervention and having a communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, the one or more processing systems configured to assist the delivery drone with navigation from a home base to a delivery location and back to the home base and collision avoidance whilst in transit. [0140] The delivery drone 100 of the present invention can be utilised to deliver any type of item. In the context of the present specification, the delivery drone is discussed particularly in terms of delivery of fresh or prepared food, and particularly, home delivery of a meal provided by a food preparation store. The drone can deliver food that has been prepared at the food preparation store which is hot and/or cold. For the purposes of the present invention, the term "food" includes beverages as well.

[0141] Typically, the delivery drone will be loaded with a deployable container 102 containing prepared food at a home base, normally the food preparation store and the delivery location is provided to the drone. The drone or delivery unit is then "locked", leaves the food preparation store, and is piloted to one or more delivery locations where a customer can access the food for removal after an appropriate verification process has taken place, and the delivery drone is piloted back to the home base (or to one or more further delivery locations and then back to the home base) for further deployment or storage.

[0142] The drone of the present invention typically utilises an unmanned aerial vehicle utilising available technology and preferably including navigation and collision avoidance software in order to move from one location to another. The drone may be software controlled in order to be substantially and may be provided with an artificial intelligence allowing self navigation and collision avoidance, but with human piloting and/or intervention possible in situations that the software cannot overcome.

[0143] Generally, the drone will be relatively small, having a footprint of approximately 1 m x 1 m but clearly the size of the UAV will be determined according to the weight and size of an average load to be carried.

[0144] The drone may be of any type but will typically be an electric drone, but alternative power plants may be provided. According to a preferred embodiment illustrated in Figure 4 in particular, the drone will normally have one or more on-board storage batteries which can be recharged in order to provide power to one or more electric motors to drive the propellers.

[0145] The drone will typically be capable of operating over substantial distances, preferably up to approximately 20 to 30 km. The drone will be capable of out of line of sight operation.

[0146] The drone will typically include at least one, and typically a number of different illumination sources, with illumination sources provided for different purposes. Preferably, lighting is provided beneath the drone to illuminate downwardly for recognition and location purposes. The drone may be provided with lighting directed forwardly and/or lighting directed rearwardly so that the drone can be easily identified or signal or for use with navigation and/or collision avoidance or feature recognition.

[0147] Whilst illumination sources will typically be provided, it is also preferred that other visual indicia be provided such as reflective portions, luminescent portions, photoluminescent portions and the like in order that the drone be identified well and capable of being clearly seen, even in low light conditions.

[0148] One or more cameras or other image capturing devices may be provided on the drone in general in order to monitor and/or capture the surrounds whilst the drone is on delivery. When the drone is piloted by a human pilot, the camera feed is preferably transmitted to the pilot in real-time to allow the pilot to pilot the drone. The real-time camera feed can also be transmitted to third parties and/or the customer. Normally, this will be capture of images on a real time, and preferably substantially continuous basis by video capture. The captured images may be transmitted to a remote locality for monitoring and/or display purposes and/or stored on board. This may allow a pilot to pilot the drone to the delivery location. This can be assisted by providing the drone pilot with GPS co-ordinates of the delivery location. These GPA coordinates may be obtained as a part of the order, preferably from the personal computing device from which the order is placed.

[0149] The drone of the present invention preferably includes an on-board computer configured with software for navigation and collision avoidance. The on-board software may allow substantially autonomous operation to travel from the home base to one or more delivery locations and return to home base substantially without human intervention unless human intervention is required for situations not solvable by the software.

[0150] Normally, the on-board computer will be associated with the wireless

communications module, the location receiver and the at least one detection device and will typically use inputs and/or outputs from these components to ly navigate from the home base to the at least one delivery location and return to the home base with the navigation including avoidance of collisions during the travel.

[0151] The on-board computer will typically operate navigation and collision avoidance software but the on-board computer will also typically include a software application to accomplish or partake in the customer identity verification process at each delivery location, before the deployable portion is deployed. The on-board computer will therefore have one or more separate subsystems with at least one subsystem including hardware and software allowing autonomous navigation and collision avoidance of the drone to one or more delivery locations, and at least one subsystem including hardware and software controlling access to the delivery unit.

[0152] The on-board computer is typically capable of receiving delivery instructions from a point of sale or store management computer system in order to obtain the one or more delivery locations and/or other information required or helpful in the delivery process. The on-board computer is preferably also capable of obtaining or being provided with real-time map or routing information for use in navigation and/or collision avoidance.

[0153] The delivery drone of the present invention also includes at least one wireless communications module allowing for communication to and/or from the drone. In this way, the delivery drone can send and receive information in relation to its location and status and receive updates to allow more efficient operation and/or delivery. Normally, instructions are issued to the on-board computer of the delivery drone via the at least one wireless communications module. Requests from the drone for further information or instructions can be sent via the at least one wireless communications module, updates can be received substantially in real time and importantly, second-by-second data as to the location and speed of the drone and/or vector data can be provided from the delivery drone to a remote monitoring system. Preferably, the at least one wireless communication module will send second-by- second data as to the location and speed of the drone as well as vector data to at least one remote location, normally to a monitoring system to allow the monitoring system to convey this information to the home base (the information can be sent directly to the home base) and/or other interested parties such as for example, the ordering customer as be explained further below.

[0154] The delivery drone of the present invention also includes at least one detection device to detect features in the local environment for navigation and collision avoidance. One or more detection devices can be used and any type or combination of detection devices can be used. Particularly preferred are devices that allow the delivery drone to navigate and identify objects using radar, lidar, location technologies such as GPS, odometry and/or computer-aided vision, virtual reality or augmented reality technology.

[0155] The delivery drone of the present invention also includes a delivery unit mounted to the UAV for containing one or more items during delivery to allow a customer to remove items stored therein once the delivery drone has reached a delivery location and the customer identification transmission has been received and verified. As mentioned above, the delivery unit is typically mounted to the UAV, normally below the UAV.

[0156] The delivery unit 101 preferably includes an external housing. The external housing will normally define an outer shape of the delivery unit 101 and is preferably at least partially arcuate for aesthetic reasons but may be rectangular as illustrated to more closely receive the deployable container 102. The housing may have a substantially planar front wall and rear wall. One or more lights may be provided on the front wall and/or rear wall.

[0157] The external housing of the delivery unit 101 is typically at least partially hollow defining an internal volume. At least one deployable container 102is located within the internal volume of the delivery unit 101. The deployable container 102 is located within the internal volume in the delivery condition and is selectively deployable to a location partially outside the external housing to allow a customer to access the container 102and remove the food preferably stored within the at least one deployable container 102 and/or remove or detach the deployable container 102 from cable or similar attaching it to the drone 100. In a preferred embodiment, the deployable container 102 will preferably lower for delivery and raise for storage substantially vertically relative to the external housing as this will contribute to maintaining the stability of the drone.

[0158] The deployable container 102 may be divided internally into one or more compartments. The compartments provided may be individually accessible and different items may be stored in different compartments.

[0159] It is further preferred that the deployable container 102 may be divided into different functionalities for example, some of the compartments may be heated or hot compartments adapted to temporarily store heated food and some of the compartments may be cooled or cold compartments adapted to temporarily store cooled or frozen food. Where these different functionalities are provided in the same deployable portion, it is preferred that the compartments may be visually distinct from one another, for example, using colour coding to represent the different functionalities. In one preferred embodiment, the cool or cold compartments may be provided with blue colouring or highlights and the warm or hot compartments provided with red colouring or highlights in order to allow the customer to easily identify the function of the compartments. This may also increase the safety of the device with the customer being warned of warm or hot compartments prior to making contact with those compartments.

[0160] Typically, heated or hot compartments may be insulated and thereby provide passive heat maintenance. Similarly, cooled or cold compartments may be insulated, providing passive cooling maintenance.

[0161] In a particularly preferred embodiment, the delivery container 102 will typically be deployed once the delivery location has been reached and a customer identification verification process has been completed. Normally, the satisfaction of both parameters will be required before deployment commences. The verification process will typically be achieved through the provision of a verification code or identifier by the customer to the delivery drone and preferably, to the software operating on the on-board computer in order to be compared against a verification code or identifier provided at the time the order is made. Typically, the verification code or identifier is created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the ordering customer and is typically provided to the ordering customer upon payment. This is typically achieved using a personal computing device such as a tablet or smart phone or the like, upon which the majority of ordering customers now order this type of delivery using an online ordering interface. In this case, the verification code or identifier can be provided directly to the personal computing device of the ordering customer. If the order is made on a non-mobile computing device, the customer can elect to have the verification code or identifier forwarded to a mobile or personal computing device. Alternatively, the verification code or identifier can be provided from a central server or computer network. For example, a customer may transmit a message or signal to a central server or computer network, possibly through an online ordering interface or monitoring interface (discussed below) and the central server or computer network may then signal the drone to deploy the deployable portion.

[0162] Other verification systems may be used. For example, one or more verification systems involving biometric data unique to a customer may be used. For example, a unique fingerprint, optical scan or even a mechanism including a physical sample such as breath or skin for example may be used. If implemented in this configuration, each customer will typically require a unique profile to be created which stores at least one biometric control sample of data which is unique to each customer. The biometric control sample can be created or captured in any way and typically, the customer will provide the biometric control sample to be stored against their unique customer profile. Normally the profiles will be stored in at least one database accessible by the one or more processing systems. During the verification process, the delivery drone will typically access the ordering customer's unique profile in order to compare a biometric sample provided during the verification process by the customer, with the at least one biometric control sample stored in the unique customer profile and if there is a match, then the deployable portion will typically open and if there is not a match, the customer can be prompted to retry and/or failure to provide a matching biometric sample will result in the deployable portion remaining locked and potentially, the delivery drone returning to home base.

[0163] Typically, the ordering customer will take the device upon which the order was made or the mobile or personal computing device to which the verification code or identifier was forwarded with them to collect their food from the delivery drone. The verification process can be initiated a variety of ways, one way in which it may be initiated is simply through proximity of the mobile or personal computing device to the food delivery drone. In other words, once the mobile or personal computing device moves within range of the delivery drone, the verification process may be initiated automatically. Alternatively, the verification process may be manually commenced by the customer once they are close to the delivery drone such as through interaction with an interface generated on the personal computing device (pressing a "button" for example).

[0164] Preferably, the at least one wireless communications module of the delivery drone may be used to communicate with the mobile or personal computing device of the customer. One mechanism for doing so is Bluetooth or WiFi. For example, Bluetooth allows the identification of electronic devices to one another and either the delivery drone can "find" the mobile or personal computing device of the customer or vice versa. Once a communication pathway has been established between the devices, the verification code may be transmitted from the mobile or personal computing device of the customer to the delivery drone. The verification code received by the on-board computer of the delivery drone can be compared to the verification code created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the customer and if the verification codes match one another, then the deployable container 102 is deployed. If the verification codes do not match, then the deployable portion does not deploy, and remained secured with in the delivery drone.

[0165] The verification process may include multifactor verification. For example, the verification process may include the verification code and additionally may require the presence of a particular mobile computing device from which the order was placed within a particular proximity to the delivery drone in order that the delivery drone can verify both the code, and that the code was issued to and from the particular mobile computing device.

[0166] The verification code creation and/or issue is typically undertaken by a software application which may be related to or associated with the software application through which the customer orders the item to be delivered. The verification code software may allow the verification code to be sent or forwarded to a third-party to allow a third-party to receive delivery of the ordered food. For example, a parent may order a food delivery for children to be delivered to the children at a residential address and may therefore forward the verification code to the children to allow them to access the delivery drone to receive delivery of the food ordered by their parents if their parents are at a remote location from the residential address.

[0167] Once the verification process has been completed, that is the verification code provided to the delivery drone by the customer (preferably via a personal computing device) matches the verification code relating to the particular delivery provided by the ordering software, the deployable container 102 will be deployed allowing the customer to remove the items from the deployable container 102 and/or the deployable container 102. The cable will then preferably be retracted. The retraction process may be actuated by the removal of items and therefore, one or more weight sensors may be provided in order to sense changes of weight in the deployable portion or alternatively, a manually actuable button or similar may be provided on the end of the cable in order to allow the customer to retract the cable once they have removed their food. Typically, safety features will be provided to prevent the cable retracting prematurely in order to minimise injury to customers or third parties.

[0168] The delivery drone may further include the ability for drone to contact the customer directly once the delivery location has been reached if verification is not initiated within a particular time period. This may include via text message or telephone with an automated message such as "your delivery has arrived and is awaiting collection". Typically the contact details will be provided to the delivery drone with the order information and the onboard computer may action the contact if delivery location has been reached if verification is not initiated within a particular time period.

[0169] In use and as illustrated schematically in Figure 6, the delivery drone 10 is loaded with prepared food by an operator 18 at a home base 16, normally the food preparation store 17 and provided with the delivery location. The delivery drone 10 is then "locked", leaves the food preparation store and is piloted to one or more delivery locations 19 where the customer 14 can access the food for removal after an appropriate verification process has taken place and the drone 10 is then piloted back to the home base 16 (or to one or more further delivery locations and then back to the home base) for further deployment or storage.

[0170] As mentioned above, the delivery unit 12 is typically mounted to an underside of the UAV.

[0171] As illustrated, the delivery unit 101 includes an external housing which defines an outer shape of the delivery unit 101.

[0172] In a particularly preferred embodiment, the delivery container 102 is deployed once the delivery location 19 has been reached and the customer identification verification process has been completed.

[0173] The verification process is preferably achieved through the provision of a verification code or identifier by the customer to the delivery drone 10 and preferably, to the software operating on the on-board computer in order to be compared against a verification code or identifier provided at the time the order is made. Typically, the verification code or identifier is created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the ordering customer and is typically provided to the ordering customer upon payment. This is typically achieved using a personal computing device such as a smart phone 26 upon which the majority of ordering customers now order this type of delivery. In this case, the verification code or identifier can be provided directly to the smart phone 26 of the ordering customer once assigned, typically by a software application operating on administration server 27. If the order is made on a non-mobile computing device, the customer can elect to have the verification code or identifier forwarded to a mobile or personal computing device.

[0174] Typically, the ordering customer will take the smart phone 26 upon which the order was made with them to collect their food from the delivery drone 10. The verification process can be initiated a variety of ways, one way in which it may be initiated is simply through proximity of the smart phone 26 to the delivery drone 10. In other words, once the smart phone 26 moves within range of the delivery drone 10, the verification process may be initiated automatically. Alternatively, the verification process may be manually commenced by the customer once they are close to the delivery drone 10.

[0175] Preferably, the at least one wireless communications module of the delivery drone may be used to communicate with the mobile or personal computing device of the customer. One mechanism for doing so is Bluetooth. For example, Bluetooth allows the identification of electronic devices to one another and either the delivery drone can "find the mobile or personal computing device of the customer or vice versa. Once a communication pathway has been established between the devices, the verification code may be transmitted from the mobile or personal computing device of the customer to the delivery drone. The verification code received by the on-board computer of the delivery drone can be compared to the verification code created and/or issued upon payment for the order by the customer and if the verification codes match one another, then the deployable portion deploy is. If the verification codes do not match each other, then the deployable portion does not deploy, and remained secured with in the delivery drone 10.

[0176] The verification process may include multifactor verification. For example, the verification process may include the verification code and additionally may require the presence of a particular smart phone 26 from which the order was placed within a particular proximity to the delivery drone in order that the delivery drone 10 can verify both the code, and that the code was issued to and from the particular mobile computing device.

[0177] The verification code creation and/or issue, is typically undertaken by a software application which may be related to or associated with the software application through which the customer orders the food. The verification code software may allow the verification code to be sent or forwarded to a third-party to allow a third-party to receive delivery of the ordered food. For example, a parent may order a food delivery for children to be delivered to the children at a residential address and may therefore forward the verification code to the children to allow them to access the delivery drone to receive delivery of the food ordered by their parents if their parents are at a remote location from the residential address.

[0178] Once the verification process has been completed, that is the verification code provided to the delivery drone 10 by the customer 14 (preferably via the smart phone 26), matches the verification code relating to the particular delivery provided by the ordering software, the deployable container 102 is deployed, allowing the customer 14 to remove the deployable container 102 from the cable 104 . The cable 104 is then retracted. The retraction process may be actuated by the removal of items and therefore, one or more weight sensors may be provided in order to sense changes of weight in the deployable portion. Typically, safety features will be provided to prevent the cable retracting prematurely in order to minimise injury to customers or third parties.

[0179] The delivery drone may further include the ability for drone to contact the customer directly once the delivery location has been reached if verification is not initiated within a particular time period. This may include via text message or telephone or over a computer network such as the cloud 28 with an automated message such as "your delivery has arrived and is awaiting collection". Typically, the contact details will be provided to the delivery drone 10 with the order information (or will be stored on server 27 and forwarded as required) and the onboard computer may action the contact if delivery location has been reached if verification is not initiated within a particular time period.

[0180] The delivery drone 10 may have a visual indicator which is variable to indicate the delivery status of the food delivery drone 10. The visual indicator enables customers and third parties to distinguish between a delivery drone 10 which is en route to a delivery location, allow identification of when verification is being undertaken and when a delivery drone is en route to the home base following a completed delivery to a customer.

[0181] Of course, the at least one location receiver such as a GPS receiver can be used to track the location of the drone in real time or near real time through communication with one or more satellites 29 in the GPS network. The drone may also have the ability to automatically notify home base, or third-party such as a monitoring system or authorities such as the police if tampering or attempts are made to divert the drone.

[0182] According to the system of the preferred embodiment illustrated schematically in Figure 7, one or more processing systems may be provided for command and control in addition to the on-board software. The one or more processing systems preferably operate substantially without human intervention and having a communication module to enable sending and receiving of information to and from the delivery drone, the one or more processing systems configured to assist the delivery drone with navigation from a home base to a delivery location and back to the home base and collision avoidance whilst in transit

[0183] Preferably, the system will provide for real-time tracking of the location and status of the delivery drone and for management thereof.

[0184] Instructions and/or updates can be sent from the one or more processing systems to the on-board computer and/or software for action. For example, a recall to base instruction can be issued, the drone can issue alerts to the home base, or one or more external systems can be provided to assist with an/or override the navigation and/or collision avoidance system is present in the drone. The one or more processing systems can additionally provide rousing data updates in order to more efficiently plan the delivery and/or may plan delivery routs and transfer these to the food delivery drone.

[0185] The system of the present invention may include a subsystem for real-time or near real time monitoring of the food delivery drone, the system including a drone mounted device associated with each food delivery drone, a central server processing system and a home base work station located at the home base of the food delivery drone; a) the drone mounted device including

i. at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the delivery drone in real time or near real time,

ii. a wireless communication module to transfer information relating to the location data and

iii. at least one electrical connection assembly to connect the drone mounted device to a power supply system; at least one identification tool associated with the drone mounted device to uniquely identify the drone mounted device within the system, b) the central server processing system to receive the location data from each drone mounted device and based on the location data, to transfer information relating to the real time or near real time location of each drone to the home base workstation; and c) the home base work station including

i. at least one electronic display with a map interface updated in real time or near real time indicating the real-time or near real time location of the delivery drone on the map interface using the information transferred from the central server processing system;

ii. at least one input device for input of data into the home base workstation; and iii. at least one identification tool reader to read the unique identification tool

associated with each delivery drone mounted device to identify the drone mounted device as well as information and data pertaining thereto, within the system.

[0186] The subsystem is directed toward real-time monitoring of food delivery drones and the deliveries being delivered. The system is based on interaction with an automated drone location system which may or may not be a proprietary system owned by third party.

[0187] It is preferred that the subsystem locate the food delivery drones through the drone mounted device in real time on near real-time. It is particularly preferred that the drone mounted device allow the location of the delivery drone based on information collected on a second by second basis and also vector data to compile and analyse drone behaviour. The collected information may be sent as collected or a packet of information collected over a period, preferably a short period, may be sent periodically. Due to the second by second data and vector data, the drone location system is typically able to give not only the location of the food delivery drone and but also the direction of travel of the drone and the speed of the drone due to the availability of the data used.

[0188] The subsystem includes multiple parts that operate together to track the location of the delivery drone through the drone mounted device and also to keep record of data from each delivery drone mounted device in order to keep the home base workstation informed and/or to log data in relation to each food delivery drone. This allows not only tracking of the food delivery drones, but also management of the food delivery drones, the deliveries themselves including dispatch management, safety record management, maintenance records and management-end forensic examination in case of any issues or problems.

[0189] The subsystem includes a drone mounted device associated with each drone. The drone mounted device may be mounted temporarily to the drone or but preferably permanently.

[0190] The drone mounted device includes at least one location receiver to obtain location data indicative of a location of the delivery drone in real time. As mentioned above, second by second and vector data is normally provided and this will allow the location and direction of travel of the drone to be determined substantially in real time or near real-time, limited only by the processing ability and connectivity of the system.

[0191] The at least one location receiver will typically interact with a location network to determine the location of the location receiver and thereby, determine the location of the drone. In a particularly preferred form, the at least one location receiver will be a GPS receiver.

[0192] Preferably, the location is determined as close as possible to real time. This is particularly powerful when based on second by second or breadcrumb data, as it allows the tracking of location precisely and preferably dynamically over time rather than prior art systems which only collect location data at particular time steps which can be separated by five or more seconds. Those systems give no feedback as to what has occurred between the time steps. In contrast, a second by second data feed allows capture of information on a second by second basis. The data collected is typically position or location data including elevation is possible (this may involve additional hardware but provided that the drone if fitted with a transmitter and iOSD and/or a camera, known systems can calculate the real time altitude of the drone) but due to the second by second data, this also allows the calculation of speed and direction based on the data.

[0193] The drone mounted device also preferably includes a wireless communications module to transfer information relating to the location data. The wireless communication module preferably transfers the information to the central server processing system of the present invention. The wireless communication module may be integrated with the location receiver or be separate thereto. Where separated, typically, the wireless communication module and the location receiver are provided in the same housing. This typically allows the wireless communication module and location receiver to draw power from the same source although this is not strictly necessary. [0194] The wireless communication module can operate based on any wireless system, for example, cell phone networks, radio networks, data networks and the like. Most commonly, the location is determined using GPS, and the wireless communications module is based on SMS, GPRS, a satellite or terrestrial radio from the drone to a radio receiver. GSM is the most common services applied, because of the low data rate needed for automated drone location, and the low cost and near-ubiquitous nature of these networks. The low bandwidth requirements also allow for satellite technology to receive telemetry data at a moderately higher cost, but across a global coverage area and into very remote locations not covered well by terrestrial radio or public carriers.

[0195] The wireless communications module will typically have a hard wired connection to the power source and any interconnections with the location receiver but one or more wireless communications pathways from the wireless communications module.

[0196] The drone mounted device also preferably includes at least one electrical connection assembly to connect the drone mounted device to a power supply system of the food delivery drone. This preferably allows the delivery drone to provide the operating power to the drone mounted device and the components thereof. Typically, a hard wired connection is provided between the power supply system of the delivery drone and the drone mounted device.

Normally, a cable or similar with an appropriate adapter, attaches to or accesses the drone power system.

[0197] One or more battery devices or systems may be provided in the drone mounted device in order to prevent complete power down of the drone mounted device and/or components or to power at least temporarily.

[0198] Preferably, particularly in the temporary delivery drone embodiment, all of the components are typically installed in the main drone housing.

[0199] The subsystem also preferably includes at least one identification tool associated with the drone mounted device to uniquely identify the drone mounted device within the system. As mentioned above, the identification tool may be attached to the drone mounted device, or alternatively, can be provided separately to the drone mounted device, but associated with the drone mounted device. In some embodiments, the system can identify a particular component of the system, such as the GPS receiver and use that identification to identify the drone mounted device uniquely within the system.

[0200] Any type of identification tool can be used and the configuration will typically depend upon the type of drone mounted device. The identification tool can be or include a barcode device, a radio frequency identification chip or tag or other type of device which has or is associated with, a unique identification code or similar to uniquely identify the tool and thereby the drone mounted device, within the system. The identification tool will preferably allow information collected in relation to one drone mounted device to be identified as being associated with or collected from that particular drone mounted device.

[0201] The identification tool is used to identify the drone mounted device and through the drone mounted device, the delivery drone. The identification tool will normally allow permanent identification of the particular drone mounted device with which it is associated.

[0202] The system of the present invention also includes a central server processing system to receive the location data from each of drone mounted devices and based on the location data, to transfer information relating to the real-time location of each drone to the home base workstation. The central server processing system is normally remotely located from the home base workstation and the respective drone mounted devices. The central server processing system is typically associated with an automatic drone location system which provides information to the central server processing system. Preferably, this system is not an event activated tracking system but an automated drone location system based on the provision of second by second location data provided from the at least one location receiver of each drone mounted device. The central server processing system therefore preferably includes management functionality in addition to the automatic drone location system functionality (which is may simply adopt from an external system) allowing a company to manage a fleet of drones each of which is associated with a particular home base.

[0203] The drone location system may be operated or administered by a system

administrator which is separate to the operator of the food delivery drone. Normally, the drone location algorithm is located on a server or web platform and the location information is used by the automatic drone location system and the server or web platform then transmits information relating to the real-time location of each drone to the home base workstation of the particular drone. Therefore, the drone location system which is a part of or is accessed by the central server processing system is typically a "fat client" undertaking information processing and storage by or on a computer network or server and then provides that information to the central server processing system of the present invention.

[0204] The home base workstation preferably receives information from the central server processing system. The home base workstation may provide information to the central server processing system for example, information relating to login or association of drone mounted devices with particular drones and/or drivers.

[0205] The central server processing system may interact with other components of the system to transfer information to and/or receive information from other components of the system. According to the most preferred embodiment, the central server processing system communicates with the homebase workstations of a number of different home bases and also stores or causes information to be stored in an information log which is accessible by a corporate manager of the respective home bases. In a conventional delivery network, each of the drones typically works from home base and each homebase has a particularly defined delivery area. Therefore, information in relation to each drone should be available at each homebase as well as to the overall manager of the delivery network.

[0206] As mentioned above, the automatic drone location system is normally external to the particular delivery company and the delivery company simply accesses the automatic drone location system via the central server processing system. Communication between the delivery company via the central server processing system and the automatic drone location system may be via middleware.

[0207] As mentioned above, the central server processing system in association with the automatic drone location system is typically responsible for determining the location of the drones within the system and for processing information in relation thereto to allow the other components of the system, preferably the homebase workstations, to be "thin clients" or at least "thinner clients" than the central server processing system. The bulk of the processing and storage of information will therefore preferably take place in the central server processing system and/or automatic drone location system rather than at the homebase workstations, but the homebase workstations will typically be capable of at least some processing and data storage.

[0208] Information is typically accessed within the system through the central server processing system. Queries are generally submitted to the central server processing system and databases storing the information are typically accessed via the central server processing system as required or as pursuant to a request. Preferably, the particular operation of the automatic drone location system does not form a part of the present invention which is more directed towards the use of the information, particularly by the homebase workstations and as a part of delivery company management, within the invention.

[0209] The system of the present invention also includes a home base workstation including at least one electronic display with a map interface updated in real time indicating the real-time location of the drones on the map interface using the information transferred from the central server processing system. Preferably, the information is pushed to the home base workstation from the central server processing system rather than pursuant to a request from the home base workstation. The information provided to the homebase may additionally be provided to third parties and/or the customer.

[0210] According to a particularly preferred embodiment, multiple home base workstations are provided in a delivery network and each home base workstation normally has a number of drone mounted devices which are particularly associated with that home base workstation. For example, a single company may have a number of stores, and each store may have a number of drones which are responsible for delivering the products from each of the stores. Each of the drones will normally have a drone mounted device assignable to it. Therefore, the home base workstation at each store will typically have the ability to track the location of each of the drones which deliver from that store. The company will also typically have management capabilities to track the location of each drone from each of the stores as well as to maintain information in relation to each drone from each of the stores, but to drill down to each store and preferably, to each drone and/or driver in any one or more of the stores. Typically, the system will report the location of each drone to its respective home base workstation but will not necessarily report the location to other homebase workstations.

[0211] The information provided typically allows the home base workstation to plot the location of each drone of that home base on the electronic display on the map interface, in real time.

[0212] The at least one electronic display may be of any type. Typically, the electronic display will be a device such as a monitor or view screen. Preferably, the electronic display will display the map interface only and substantially at all times in which the system is operating. Normally, the electronic display will display the location of the drones on the map interface without allowing any interaction with the system through the electronic display.

[0213] The map interface displayed on the electronic display will preferably be limited to the particular delivery area of the home base from which the drone operates or have the particular delivery area of the homebase delineated clearly. One particularly preferred method of delineation is to show the delivery area in full colour and resolution and to display areas outside the delivery area in a darkened or obscured display, which is still visible on the map interface, but which is clearly outside the delivery area. The particular delivery area may have a border surrounding it in order to further demarcate the delivery area. It is particularly preferred according to the present invention that the delivery area be defined as a geo-fence in order to allow a store manager or other operator within a particular home base to identify if a delivery drone strays outside the delivery area for the particular store.

[0214] The map interface is typically produced by or at the local workstation based on information received from the central server processing system and particularly from the automatic drone location system.

[0215] The map interface is typically generated using an existing map provider. The most popular map provider will typically be Google Maps. The system of the present invention will typically generate the map interface on the display using information obtained from an existing map provider such as Google Maps. Information obtained from an existing map provider will typically include other information which will also typically be useful to the management of deliveries. The map interface may be an aerial view, in 3 -Dimensions or a satellite view or similar.

[0216] The map interface will also preferably have an automatic zoom function. There will of course be periods where one drone having a drone mounted device is on a delivery and times where more than one drone having drone mounted devices are on delivery. The map interface will typically automatically zoom in and/or out to show the delivery area in relation to drones on delivery. If only a single drone is on delivery, then the map interface will typically zoom in to that particular area and then will expand as more drones leave on deliveries and then

expand/contract/change shape and focus as required as delivery drones return and/or leave.

[0217] Preferably, the system of the present invention operates to only show active deliveries in progress on the map interface. Information is typically provided in real time on the map interface updated in real time or near real time. The map interface may be static or fixed and changes displayed in one or more overlays. Normally, an icon is provided for each delivery drone. A trip timer and/or leg timer may be provided in order to allow management to view the elapsed time on delivery for each drone. Normally, changes in the delivery legs will normally be determined via changes in ignition status of drone, collected from the drone via the drone mounted device as explained above.

[0218] There will typically be a number of different legs about which records are logged by the system and which may be illustrated on the map interface or on a related interface in order to allow management of the home base to determine the efficiency of the deliveries. In particular, there will typically be an "outward leg" during which the delivery drone has left the store and is on its way to the delivery point. This will typically be indicated on the map interface in a particular way, normally using a particular colour. The colour green is a particularly preferred colour for the outward leg. Preferably, the subsystem determines that the delivery is on the outbound leg through the loading and delivery of the food detected by deployment of the deployable portion. For example, when the employee loads the food into the food delivery drone, there will normally be an "initiate delivery" activation and this can be confirmed using location data as the drone moves off.

[0219] A second, "at delivery leg" occurs when the delivery drone is at the delivery point. This will typically be indicated on the map interface in a particular way, normally using a particular colour, different to the outward leg colour. The colour dark blue is a particularly preferred colour for indicating that the drone is at the delivery point. Preferably, the system determines that the delivery is at the delivery point using location data and this can be confirmed if the verification process commences and then the "at delivery" leg typically ends when the deployable portion closes, signalling that the delivery has been completed and this can be confirmed using location data as the drone moves off.

[0220] A third, "homebound" leg occurs when the drone is returning to the home base. This will typically be indicated on the map interface in a particular way, normally using a particular colour different to both the colour used for each of the outward leg and at delivery leg. The colour orange is a particularly preferred colour for indicating that the delivery drone is on the homebound leg. Preferably, the system determines that the delivery driver is on the homebound leg and returning to the home base using location data and the homebound leg ends when the location data matches the home base location.

[0221] Additional legs may be provided such as for example where a delivery drone takes more than one delivery on a single run. If this occurs, then one or more intermediate delivery legs will typically exist between the "at delivery" leg and the homebound leg. The system will typically have interaction with an order dispatch system or order management system which will typically be able to adjust when a drone has been assigned more than one delivery on a single delivery run.

[0222] Preferably, the appearance of the preferred icon indicating the delivery drone will normally adjust depending upon the particular leg which the delivery drone is currently on. Preferably, the preferred icon indicating the delivery drone may appear on the map interface when an order is designated to a delivery drone but preferably, only appears once the drone has actually begun the

[0223] The status of the delivery drone will preferably be indicated in different ways on the map interface in order to allow a home base manager to easily recognise the legs and distinguish between the legs of each of the deliveries currently in progress. This will typically allow the home base manager to manage the delivery sequence and/or preparation time for products, more easily. As mentioned above, the status of the delivery drone and the particular leg of the drone is normally indicated on the map interface using colours but any other identification can be used.

[0224] It is further preferred that the speed of the drone is indicated on or in relation to the preferred icon indicating the delivery drone on the map interface. The preferred icon may also indicate the particular location and/or drone designator. The drone may additionally have height restrictions for operation. For example, there may be an operating ceiling and an operating floor and the drone will typically operate on delivery substantially within these restrictions. It is preferred that takeoff and landing are substantially at the food preparation store. It is preferred that the drone remain airborne during the delivery, even when the deployable unit is deployed.

[0225] The map interface may not indicate the end point or ultimate destination of the delivery until the end point or ultimate destination is reached. At that time, the status of the delivery will typically change and the representation of the icon will typically change accordingly. The map interface will typically show the path taken by the delivery drone, normally both outward and on the return leg until the drone arrives at the home base store with the different legs indicated differently and then, once sign in has been achieved, the map interface will typically refresh and remove the path taken. An ETA at the home base may be calculated and displayed on the map interface based on the length of the outward leg and/or prevailing conditions obtained from the map provider.

[0226] Normally, if a drone with a fitted drone mounted device leaves the store without a delivery assigned to it, then the icon on the map interface will typically identify this. Normally, the icon will be coloured red for example, indicating that the drone has left the store without assigning a delivery thereto.

[0227] Further, if an unassigned drone mounted device leaves the store, in other words a drone mounted device that has not yet been associated with a drone using the assignment system, the icon on the map interface will typically identify this. Again, the icon can be coloured red for example. This allows the home base manager to easily identify that drones have left the store either without a delivery or without properly assigning a drone mounted device to the drone. In instances, assigning a delivery to the drone may be a necessary precursor step before the drone will leave the home base as until the assignment takes place, the drone will typically not have a delivery location, only obtaining a delivery location as a result of the delivery assignment.

[0228] Further functionality may be added to the map interface. For example, the map interface may be updated with real-time alerts as to the activity or behaviour of drones which are on delivery. For example, a real-time alert may be issued if a drone exceeds the speed limit. Preferably, there can be a tiered real-time alert for example, a real-time alert may issue if a drone exceeds the posted speed limit on a road by 10 km for a period of 10 seconds or alternatively, a real-time alert may issue if a driver exceeds the speed limit by 15 km at any time regardless of the length of exceeding the speed limit. Typically, the posted speed limit on roads is also obtained from the existing map provider.

[0229] Still further, the system is preferably adapted to determine when the drone is operating dangerously due to the second by second data.

[0230] The home base workstation and more particularly, a software application operating on the home base workstation, typically interacts with an order dispatch software application and/or a delivery management application. These applications may operate on a network which is different to but accessible by the home base workstation or on a single network accessible by all applications.

[0231] Typically, an instore operator will assign deliveries to the drone when the delivery is ready for delivery. According to the system of the present invention, when a delivery is assigned in an order management system, information preferably begins to be shared with the drone on board computer device and the automatic drone location system operating on the central server processing system in order to log information relating to the delivery. Preferably, the central server processing system will normally assign the particular order or delivery to a particular drone and information is thereafter typically collected via the drone mounted device in relation to that particular order or delivery.

[0232] The home base workstation will preferably have a processor associated therewith in order to generate and display the map interface but also to receive input from at least one input device in order to control the appearance of the map interface as well as interact with software applications operating on the home base workstation or in association with the home base workstation.

[0233] The home base workstation will also typically include at least one input device for input of data into the home base workstation. As mentioned above, the home base workstation will normally include at least one processor. Any number and any type of input device can be provided to allow input or interaction with the home base workstation.

[0234] According to a particularly preferred embodiment, a touchscreen control panel associated with the processor as a part of the home base workstation will be provided. This is normally in addition to the identification tool reader. Further, there may be other input devices such as a keyboard and/or pointer device such as a mouse, associated with the processor as a part of the home base workstation. The provision of the touchscreen control panel and the keyboard and/or mouse will preferably allow operators at the home base workstation to interact with the system through the touchscreen control panel primarily and the keyboard and/or pointer device as required, given that the electronic display with the map interface is for display only.

[0235] Preferably, the touchscreen control panel may be used to control the home base workstation computer processor. As mentioned above, the home base workstation will normally have more limited functionality than the central server processing system, but there will preferably be functionality accessible at the home base workstation for management purposes.

[0236] In particular, the home base workstation computer processor will typically generate and display one or more touch actuable "buttons" on the touchscreen control panel. For example, a button is typically provided for each available delivery drone to identify the available delivery drones to store management and to allow staff to interact with each available delivery drone and the system. These buttons will typically appear on the touchscreen control panel as the delivery drones return to the home base as detected by the location device operating in association with the home base workstation computer processor.

[0237] The particular delivery drone button will normally also indicate the status of the delivery drone. For example, drones on delivery will typically be visually distinguished from those with no assignment but which are available. This will typically allow management to easily identify which drones are available and which are not. Normally, in order to associate or assign an order to a drone, staff will typically use the identification tool to identify the drone to the system using the identification tool reader. The information obtained during this step will also typically be provided to the central server processing system for use by the automatic drone location system.

[0238] There will also typically be an address look up function "button" and an

administration "button". [0239] An administrator, normally a store manager can typically use the Administration portion of the application operating on the touchscreen control panel to remove drones from availability for selection, as required. For example, it will typically be advisable to remove a drone which is currently unavailable for delivery, such as one has broken down or is being serviced, from those available for selection. Typically, the administrator will normally do this by marking that particular drone as not being capable of selection, until it is re-added to the system.

[0240] The administration portion of the application operating on the touchscreen control panel can also be used to manually adjust the zoom level of the map interface on the display. Other parameters may be adjustable using a "settings" functionality accessible through the administration portion of the application.

[0241] One or more waypoints may be provided to the drone. It may be possible to look at more than one address, and have the system plot that optimum delivery route for more than one address on a single delivery run.

[0242] The touchscreen control panel will typically also be capable of displaying a map interface thereon showing drone locations relative to the map interface as well as the delivery status. The map interface will typically be similar to that displayed on the electronic display of the home base workstation, but separately from the electronic display at the home base workstation such that the electronic display on the home base workstation always displays a map interface showing the location of the deliveries.

[0243] The touchscreen control panel may also indicate the connection status to the central server processing system and/or the automatic drone location system.

[0244] The home base workstation of the present invention also preferably includes at least one identification tool reader to read the identification tool of each drone mounted device to uniquely identify the drone mounted device as well as information and data pertaining thereto within the system. In essence, the system of the present invention will maintain information based on the identity of the drone mounted device and the association of each drone mounted device to an individual drone.

[0245] Each of the drones within the system may have a unique profile which will typically be stored in a database associated with the system. The home base administrator, manager or store manager will normally have the ability to approve profiles.

[0246] As mentioned above, the system for real-time monitoring of drones will preferably integrate with a delivery management system. It is also preferred that the system for real-time monitoring of drones will integrate with an online ordering system provided by a company providing the products to be delivered. In particular, a portion of the information from the system for real-time monitoring of drones may be provided to an online ordering system in order to allow a customer to receive real-time updates about the location of their order during the delivery process.

[0247] According to a preferred form, an interface is typically produced based on information from the system for real-time monitoring of drones to show the location of the delivery relative to the customer or delivery point once the delivery has moved within a particular separation distance from the customer or delivery point. This will allow a user to identify how far away the delivery actually is in order to prepare for the delivery. According to the most preferred form, when on multiple delivery runs, the information provided will typically be for the particular customer's delivery only, and not the entire run.

[0248] As an example, a realtime interface 111 such as that illustrated in Figure 1 may be generated and displayed on a personal computer device, such as a smartphone 110 or tablet of the customer showing the realtime location of the drone via an icon 112 based on information collected in relation to the realtime location of the delivery drone so that a customer can identify the location of the delivery drone as well as the estimated time of arrival 113 (calculated based on respective locations of the drone and the delivery location and the travel speed of the drone), the speed 114 of the drone and/or the altitude 115 of the drone.

[0249] Once the drone arrives at the delivery location (typically determined by matching GPS co-ordinates, the drone or the central server or network will issue or cause to be issued, a notification to be sent to the personal computer device, such as a smartphone or tablet of the customer advising that the drone is at the delivery location and presenting or prompting the customer to initiate the deployment and/or customer identification verification. Deployment and customer identification verification may occur as separate steps of alternatively, a single instruction or action by the customer may initiate both. Normally, the customer identification verification will be followed by the deployment of the deployed container. In the preferred embodiment illustrated in Figures 2 and 3, an interface 120 is generated and displayed on a personal computer device, such as a smartphone or tablet of the customer with an action button 121 that the customer can use to start the customer identification verification and/or deployment.

[0250] A middleware software application may be provided that allows external access to the central server processing system on a tablet or smartphone for example. Preferably, this middleware application will allow a store manager or franchisee for example to access the management portion of the system which is also accessed from the home base workstation.

[0251] In a particularly preferred form, a software application is provided with embedded functionality allowing the production of a location interface showing the delivery. Normally, the embedded functionality will be a part of a whole of concept online order and delivery tracking system. This functionality will typically operate as an extension of the system for real-time monitoring of drones of the present invention and information gathered from the system for realtime monitoring of drones will typically be provided to the whole of concept online order and delivery tracking system. This will typically be a web-based system with one or more downloadable software applications which can be downloaded to a customer personal computing device such as a smart phone or tablet for example.

[0252] It is also preferably possible for a customer to utilise an online ordering system to designate whether they wish to have their items delivered via drone. This may attract a fee.

[00100] In the present specification and claims (if any), the word 'comprising' and its derivatives including 'comprises' and 'comprise' include each of the stated integers but does not exclude the inclusion of one or more further integers.

[00101] Reference throughout this specification to 'one embodiment' or 'an embodiment' means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, the appearance of the phrases 'in one embodiment' or 'in an embodiment' in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment.

Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more combinations.

[00102] In compliance with the statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific to structural or methodical features. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to specific features shown or described since the means herein described comprises preferred forms of putting the invention into effect. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the proper scope of the appended claims (if any) appropriately interpreted by those skilled in the art.