My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Groupon’s Trebuchet Catapult response to Amazon PrimeAir has Wings – Automated Capsule System Package Delivery From our Dungeon to your Doorstep

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Groupon’s Trebuchet Catapult response to Amazon PrimeAir has Wings – Automated Capsule System Package Delivery From our Dungeon to your Doorstep

“We're talking about principles of Package delivery systems that have been around since the time of King Arthur. That guy knew something about keeping precious cargo safe.”

Groupon's SVP of innovations, Everett Weiss on Groupon’s response in a YouTube Video to Amazon PrimeAir to use Catapults

Groupon has come out of their corner swinging with a humorous response to Amazon’s plan to deliver Packages to Amazon Prime subscribers within 30 minutes using their own Drone fleet, PrimeAir. Their answer, which involves the use Catapults as noted in the article “Groupon's brilliant response to Amazon's Drones: Catapults”, published December 11, 2013 10:56 AM PST by Chris Matyszczyk, CNET News, albeit meant in jest, can actually be practically implemented, as this article will attempt to demonstrate.



Amazon has plans to launch their DronePackage delivery service PrimeAir sometime in the next five (5) years, FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) regulations permitting as explained in my blog article entitledAmazon plans to launch Amazon PrimeAir, their 30 minute DronePackage Delivery Service for Amazon Prime users - Playing Catch-up as Mailpak launches DealBug in Jamaica”.

Not to be outdone, UPS and FedEx, but big guns in the Package delivery service, plan to also have their own Drone delivery fleet, most likely to ferry Packages in-between their various Package Distribution Centers more cost-effectively as argued in my blog article entitled UPS and FedEx developing their Own Delivery Drones to compete with Amazon PrimeAir - Premium Rush Package Delivery Drones herald the coming of Google's Personal Androids that are Almost Human”.

So how would Groupon’s idea work, assuming it wasn’t a joke and it could be practically implemented? Using technology that’s no different than what’s already in use by NASA (National Aeronautical Space Administration)!


How it could work is quite simple. Instead of firing the Package via a real Catapult, Groupon would have to develop small cannon that are designed to be calibrated to launch Packages at a certain angle and velocity to reach the target.

Groupon’s NOC (Network Operation Center) would house their Automated Catapult System that would control the Catapult and receiving real-time TelemetryData from the Package mid-flight. Groupon would also have installed an array of Digital Barometers, Anemometer and Rain Gauges that would be deployed through the area surrounding Groupon’s Delivery area around its Package Distribution Centers to communicate Real-time weather Data to Groupon’s NOC where the Automated Catapult System is housed.

Such an Automated Catapult Systemmatches the intent of Amazon PrimeAir, which would require that the Package have electronics built into it as well as a system designed to cushion the fall. This Fall Prevention Technology is similar to CEO Jeff Bezos earlier idea of an airbag for cellphones as stated in my blog article entitled “Amazon patents Fall Prevention Technology for smartphones and Tablets - The Research begins with Amazon’s patent that’s Hyde Park on Hudson (2013)”.

The process of delivery via Catapult would work as follows. A Customer on Groupon’s website would order their Package via the Internet on their Laptop, smartphone or Tablet. At the point of ordering, they’d specify where they want to deliver the Package, keeping in mind the main criteria, that being that the delivery zone has to be somewhere theCustomer is standing or where they actually live and their delivery area must be outside. Also, once ordered, they cannot reject the delivery mid-flight; that they could only do once the package has landed!

To ensure a safe delivery, based on the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) on the Tablet or smartphone, the Automated Catapult Systemhas to log a flight plan for the Package with the FAA for their approval. Obstacles in the flight path during the logging of the flight plan can be determined via a combination of the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) on the Tablet or smartphone combined with Google Maps Data.

The item to be delivered would be placed inside of a Capsule made of an aerodynamically cushioned material that’s waterproof and can protect breakable cargo if it fell from a 20 story vertical drop. The Capsule would have a Microcontroller computer that would have the following sensors:

1.      GPS
2.      Altimeter
3.      Accelerometer
4.      Magnetometer or Gyroscope
5.      Barometer
6.      Proximity Sensor
7.      Cameras

This Microcontroller Package on the Capsulewould communicate TelemetryData via 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) or via a local Telecom Provider’s GSM (Global System Mobile) EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) Data Network back to Groupon’s NOC to their Automated Catapult System.

This microcontroller Package would not only communicate TelemetryData back to the Automated Catapult System but it would also allow for mid-flight corrections using a combination of mini parachutes or small jets built onto the Capsule. The Automated Catapult System would calculate the flight path and launch the Capsule with the Package inside based on its weight.

The Automated Capsule System would also use real-time Weather Data supplied by a Network of remotely connected array of Barometers, Anemometer and Rain Gauges that would communicate Real-time weather Data to the Automated Capsule System and relay that info to the Capsule’s onboard Microcontroller.

Groupon’s Automated Capsule System – That Ominous Whistling Sound is your Delivery en Route

Once the Package is launched an airborneen route, Groupon would advise the Customer of the TOF (Time of Flight) and given an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival), which should be a matter of minutes. The Customer would also be advised not to move but to stay perfectly still as at TOF, the Package would have been launched and be in flight.

The Customer’s smartphone or Tablet would also alert them that the Package is on its way and tell them what direction to look in order to visually confirm its arrival. In addition to all this, the Capsule will be fitter with an audible whistle as well as a proximity alert whistle that would send the whistle ton to the Customer smartphone or tablet advising them that the Capsule is close to making a landing.

As the Package is in flight, mid-course corrections are made using small jets located on the outside of the Capsule to make sure it’s heading towards the Customer and will land at least within a 5 meter square area around the Customer. Once close enough to the Customer, the Capsule will deploy a special braking parachute to reduce its velocity. No different from how NASA would deliver a Robotic payload on Mars!


Once within visual range of the Capsule, based on the Capsule’s onboard GPS and proximity sensors it’ll eventually deploy a parachute to gently guide the parachute towards the Customer or where they live, using adjustments to the parachute as well as small jets to nail the landing in the designated drop zone without a hard impact.

Groupon’s Silly response has Wings – Catapult alternative to Package Delivery

Albeit Groupon’s response was done as a gag, it does have serious application in real life, if not in Package delivery as the FAA may not approve of what’s effectively launching a missile. But launching a Package this way is no different from launching a Drone, as Drones are usually launched from Aircraft Carriers using a Catapult.

This is basically the same idea of a Drone, just that instead of being able to fly on its own power, it’s being given the energy to fly via being launched by a large cannon or Catapult. It merely makes mid-flight corrections in order to safely reach its target, with the option to then glide to Customers house on final approach or land if the onboard sensors detect that it can make a splashdown in water i.e. the Customer’s swimming pool or in a body of water.

This method of delivery would be suitable for long range rapid transit deliveries outside of a 10km range and would make deliveries to persons living in remote towns up to 100 km away feasible. Best of all, once the Package makes its delivery and the Customer is satisfied that their Package within the Capsule suffered no damage during delivery; the Customer can send it back via the use of a RMA (Return Mailing Address) Sticker.

The Customerwould place the RMA Sticker onto the Capsule and have mailed back via UPS or FedEx to Groupon’s Headquarters for Testing……and relaunch.
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