Drone data shows ‘close calls’ surge
Retailers intrigued by the prospect of drone deliveries should be concerned by new data that shows a disturbingly high number of close calls with commercial aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration released data showing the number of incidents in which drones flew too close to a commercial aircraft increased to 1,200 last year from 236 incidents in 2014, the first year FAA began tracking the data.
The increased number of close calls is noteworthy as the FAA crafts rules regulating drone usage which, if overly restrictive, could impinge on some retailers plans to use the unmanned aerial vehicles.
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A different kind of drone rolls into Walmart’s backyard
A major experiment is set to begin soon on the campus of the University of Arkansas that could determine how retailers use robots, also known as autonomous terrestrial drones, to make deliveries.
Beginning April 1, London-based Starship Technologies will be turning heads on the rolling hills of the University of Arkansas campus as an important experiment gets underway to gauge human interaction with autonomous land-based vehicles.
Starship’s founders, the folks who created Skype, plan to operate the small, six-wheeled vehicles for the first time in the U.S. in hopes of demonstrating how the vehicle can revolutionize last mile deliveries. The vehicle travels at a maximum speed of four miles per hour and is capable of transporting two to three bags of groceries via sidewalks within a four mile radius for as little as $1, according to the company.
“The key focus at the moment is testing human interaction with the robots and then we will gradually start to do deliveries,” said Starship COO Allan Martinson.
Testing began earlier this year in the United Kingdom where the vehicle, which Starship refers to as a robot, has traveled 1,200 miles on public sidewalks without incident. The vehicle weights about 25 pounds and is capable of transporting about 25 pounds.
“The first reaction of most people was quite a surprise to us. We were expecting some type of reaction but about 80% to 85% of people do not react at all,” Martinson said.
Among the remaining 15% to 20%, the curious looking vehicle tends to elicit a smile or some people will attempt to interact by speaking to it. In the case of the latter, during the pilot phase a Starship representative assigned to monitor the vehicle is positioned nearby and can quickly intervene to answer questions. Those questions typically run along the lines of “what is it?” and “what does it do?” Martinson said.
The test on the campus of the University of Arkansas, about 30 miles south of Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, comes as the university unveils the new McMillon Family Retail Innovation and Technology Lab. The facility near the Sam M. Walton College of Business’ Center for Retailing Excellence is named after Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillion, who along with his wife Shelley, donated $1 million to help fund the lab. Plans call for the facility to study the latest in retail industry technologies, digital and physical store environments and insights into the shopper of the future.
“Customers want a shopping experience that blends seamlessly into their lives, and that requires a constant focus on new technologies and services,” McMillon said when funding for the lab was announced earlier this year.
Starship’s new delivery vehicle certainly fits that bill and has the potential to disrupt the crowd-sourced delivery model almost before it fully gains traction. According to Martinson, executing last mile deliveries by rely on crowd-sourced labor merely shifts costs, whereas an autonomous deliver vehicle truly re-engineers the cost equation be eliminating the expense of human delivery.
O’Neill Properties Group begins construction on $2.2 billion project
Sayreville, N.J. — O’Neill Properties Group announced that it has completed brownfield remediation project at the 40-acre lagoon at The Pointe located in Sayreville, New Jersey. The Pointe is the largest mixed-use brownfield redevelopment ever undertaken in the Northeast with the project costs of $2.2 billion. Vertical construction will begin in spring 2016 on a 200,000-sq. ft. anchor tenant Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, the largest Bass Pro in the country outside of its original flagship operation.
When the 440-acre site was purchased in 2008, O’Neill Properties Group committed to cleaning up the massive brownfield contamination. One of the most noticeable areas where remediation work took place was at the location of the new Bass Pro Shops, where a 40-acre lagoon sat filled with titanium dioxide waste byproducts from the former on-site National Lead manufacturing facility. The lagoon, with its highly-acidic, yolk-like substance and changing colors, was an infamous landmark in the region. Challenged with a unique chemical composition, the company enlisted the help of engineering firm Maser Consulting to undertake what quickly became the largest, and most intensive chemically contaminated site remediation project in the country.
“After years of behind-the-scenes work and what was truly a remediation engineering marvel, 2016 is going to see a flurry of leasing and construction activity to really kick off this monumental project,” said Brian O’Neill Jr., COO of O’Neill Properties Group and development manager for The Pointe. “The Pointe at Sayreville will redefine shopping, entertainment, and dining, transforming the local economy by creating nearly 10,000 new jobs and serving as an exciting new destination for the 12 million people in the New Jersey/New York marketplace.”
O’Neill’s general contractor, MLP Builders, worked with Maser Consulting to design an in situ stabilization, which improves and stabilizes soil content while also removing chemical contaminants. The cost for the remediation project was $8 million. In addition the cost to construct the Bass Pro Shops pad was an additional $3 million.
“The innovative use of in situ stabilization (ISS) saved millions of dollars,” said Dan Busch, PE, PP, CME, principal at Maser Consulting. “Our geotechnical team worked tirelessly in challenging conditions and timeframes to verify the performance of the mixing, performing more than 4,500 tests to confirm the ISS met the design criteria and create a safe, hazard-free site for this seminal Bass Pro Shop store.”
When complete, The Pointe will be a mixed-use community covering 440 acres and spanning three miles of waterfront along the Raritan River. The Pointe will comprise 2,000 upscale waterfront townhomes and luxury apartments, 32,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space, 1,250 hotel rooms and 725,000 sq. ft. of retail, as well as a 200-slip marina, over five miles of waterfront walkways and a park. For the community, The Pointe will construct a 45,000-sq. ft. community and fitness center, a 9,700-sq. ft. facility for fire and EMS services, a 10,000-sq. ft. performing arts center, as well as a rooftop solar farm.
The retail portion is currently being pre-leased by Ripco Real Estate. “The Pointe will become an iconic destination for consumers in the region and represents the perfect marriage of population density, access, and retail,” said Todd Cooper, co-founder of Ripco.
The Pointe is located at one of the busiest intersections in the United States – the Garden State Parkway, Route 9, and Route 35.