Using Nasa's Highway in the Sky program, a computer guided VTOL (Vertical TakeOff and Landing) plane could deliver and pickup parcels. A VTOL plane with a payload capacity of 40 pounds would be adequate for many parcels. With computer guidance, little labor cost is involved in a parcel pickup/delivery. One person could remotely monitor a dozen or more VTOL planes. Monitoring would be mainly during pickup and delivery.
The cost of airborne delivery should be much less than the cost of using a car for the delivery. When the service is cheaper for the customer than using his own car, then the usage should become widespread.
Examples uses include rural mail delivery, hot meal delivery, UPS like parcel pickup/delivery and groceries delivery.
Nasa's Highway in the Sky program provides a routing system which can be used to avoid midair collisions. Since all flights would be below the altitude that commercial planes operate in, the routing system only needs to handle private planes and the APS (Airborne Parcel Service) planes.
The APS planes could be as quiet as most cars with good mufflers.
The VTOL plane might have ultrasonic detection of flying birds, and be able to take evasive maneuvers.
Initially, the parcel pickup/delivery could be remotely controlled by a person watching a video image from a TV camera onboard the VTOL plane. Compressing the video signal and using a wireless data link may provide a good enough TV image for the person watching. Delivery could be to a driveway or to a landing pad. Some sort of boom could be used that allowed the VTOL plane to stay several feet off the ground, yet allow the parcel pickup/delivery to be precisely controlled, even in moderate wind gusts. Later, most parcel pickups and deliveries could be fully automated.
Flying 90% of the time should be acceptable. High winds and/or bad weather could ground the fleet part of the time.
The idea came about from considering what is needed for very low cost living. The Airborne Parcel Service, APS, would enable one to get most of the day to day necessities of life without using a car, even including airborne hot meal delivery. Fewer second cars would be needed.
The Internet can connect buyers and sellers, e.g. a tomato grower that has a surplus with a consumer that would like to buy them at a good price. The APS would provide an economical means of moving the goods.
In many cases, the conventional retail store can be bypassed, including the store's markup for expenses and profit. For orders directly to manufacturers, goods shipment could be from regional automated warehouses.
The economic advantages and benefits of an airborne parcel service are great. It takes several times less energy to propel a plane carrying a 40 pound payload than it does to propel a 2500 pound car. There is the potential for a significant reduction in air pollution and gasoline usage. I believe that the time is ripe for developing such a system.
Regarding the design for an Airborne Parcel Service delivery plane, simplicity and low cost are very important. In most cases, enough power can make a simple design fly. In cruise mode, the APS plane would fly like a plane, supported by the wings.
In VTOL, the plane might use an approximately 6' propeller, do VTOL much like a helicopter, i.e. use the propeller as a rotor. Canards in the slipstream of the propeller would provide control. In VTOL, the propeller torque reaction will tend to spin the fuselage and wings. One approach is to let the fuselage and wings spin and then to despin the payload. In VTOL the wings would present a large area to horizontal wind gusts.
Another approach is to rotate the outer two-thirds of each wing into a configuration such that the wings become a rotor, powered by the propeller torque reaction. The wings in this configuration present much less area to horizontal wind gusts.
Seems that in both approaches, the payload should be at the end of a controllable boom. It would then be much easier to accomplish payload dropoff or pickup. The boom could also help compensate for wind gusts.
The Engine - Flywheel Hybrid could provide high power in VTOL and be highly efficient in cruise, i.e. flying like a plane. In VTOL, probably should figure about 16-20 horsepower for a 100 pound gross weight, and in cruise, more like 2-4 horsepower.
The VTOL mode should be less than 10% of the total flying time. In forward flying mode, the fuel mileage should be more than 200 mpg.
Birds use the air to fly around in, why not use the air for an Airborne Parcel Service?
Once the service is established and reliable, it could be expanded to a taxi service.