Helicam Cinestar8 Octocopter testing
by Ville Hyvönen on flickr
Sometime between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the summer, Langsdale Library will be moving to a temporary home on the third and fourth floors of the Learning Commons. The library staff, books and computers will remain there while the current library building undergoes a renovation. One of the challenges we face is how to move all of the books. While Langsdale has been getting more and more electronic resources, including ebooks, we still have many of the hard copy variety that need to be transported across the street. As anyone who has ever tried to cross Maryland Avenue during rush hour knows, there is a fair amount of traffic between the Library and the Learning Commons, and it’s not like you can run across the street carrying several boxes of books. So what is a library to do?
The answer: book delivery drones.
In order to ensure the well-being of all the books, the library will be piloting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to lift the books to a height of about 60 feet above street level in order to fly them across the street safely above traffic.
An Australian textbook rental company called Zookal has already started using similar drones to deliver books and Amazon recently made news with plans for a “Prime Air” service that will also use drones for delivery. Drones, like the ones Amazon proposes to use, have been dubbed octocopters because they have 8 small helicopter-like rotors affixed to the top in order to ensure stability as the books are being transported. And now Langsdale Library will be using a fleet of octocopters to transport the books to our temporary home in the Learning Commons.
The plan is not without its critics. Unfortunately the fleet of octocopters really only consists of two of them. Since they can only carry a few books at once, it is going to delay the time it will take to move books over to the new location. Instead of having all of the books in the Learning Commons at the beginning of the summer semester, current estimates are that the last of the books won’t make it across the street until sometime in October. Library Director Lucy Holman said the trade-off was worth it. “I had been waking up in a cold sweat and having nightmares about boxes full of books being run over by tractor trailers with Sesame Street Live logos as they pull up to the Lyric. Now, at least I can sleep at night”.
In addition, part of the plan to make the use of these drones more efficient, was to drill a hole in the top of the Learning Commons and make a shaft through which the books could be delivered directly to the 4th floor of the library in the new building. Unfortunately, the contractors keep rescheduling the construction for Tuesdays, and there has been too much snow on the roof literally every single Tuesday since Thanksgiving. Since we now expect it to snow pretty much every week until June, it may take a little bit longer to get the books in the Learning Commons this way.
Although plans can change between today, April 1, and the time the actual move begins around Memorial Day, the staff at Langsdale looks forward to seeing everyone on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Learning Commons starting this summer.
[UPDATE 4/2/14: April Fool’s!]