The Postal Service on Friday confirmed that it takes a photograph of every letter and package mailed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year — and occasionally provides the photos to law enforcement agencies that request them as part of criminal cases.
The images are taken at more than 200 processing plants around the country and are used primarily to help the agency sort mail, the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
But Mr. Donahoe said that the images had been used “a couple of times” by law enforcement to trace letters in criminal cases, including one involving ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. The images of letters and packages are generally stored for a week to 30 days and then destroyed, he told the A.P.
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John Robb thinks the next big thing is an internet of drones. And he doesn’t mean the government’s killing machines, but something more like what the US Postal Service should morph into:
DRONENET The Next BIG thing, John Robb
It’s a system that will explode in a way that is very similar to the way the Internet grew up — where connections were bought by individuals and installed one modem and IP address at a time, and where the early providers are local geeks with shelves full of modems and an expensive T-1 lines.
It’s an approach that uses “uncontrolled airspace” and incremental purchases of cheap, standards compliant pads/drones to roll itself out (very similar to the way the Internet was able to piggy back on the old telephone system).
As a result of this open approach and decentralization, it’s something that could grow VERY fast.
Here’s a simplified version of what I’m talking about:
- I put package onto a landing pad at my home.
- Drone arrives, takes package and flies away.
- Drone delivers package to landing pad at delivery location.
There’s almost nothing technically in the way of this happening right now.
Here’s how it would work in practice:
- My brother left his iphone at my house. I want to get it to him, but he lives 30 mi away (as the crow flies, 50 by driving).
- I put it into a delivery container and put it on a small landing pad outside my home.
- I order a drone on my phone and put the ID of the container into the order (I could just as easily use a drone I buy to do it P2P).
- A drone arrives 10 minutes later, picks up the container automatically.
- After a couple of hops, it arrives at my brother’s landing pad, where it drops off the container and alerts him with an e-mail/text.
- Costs? Probably less than $0.25 per 10 mi. or so. So, about $0.75 in this instance. Time? An hour or so.
Pizza delivery? Bottle of wine? How about groceries?
I saw an announcement about Aeros recently, building lighter than air cargo solutions. Why can’t they be controlled as drones, too?