Drones deliveries aren’t a thing of the future, they are happening already and will become more common as we move forward.
Types of Drones Deliveries
There are three major types of drone delivery:
- Public Safety: where the “drop off” location is not a precise coordinate and the drone needs to be manually flown. Think of an open water rescue operation. You aren’t sure where the struggling person is, but you want to drop a life preserver over them.
- Medical Delivery: where both take-off and drop-off locations are well established and the delivery is done fully autonomously. Here we focus on the delivery of items such as medicine, medical tests, blood, or even organs, from hospital to hospital or over large areas that are difficult-to-get-to locations.
- Commercial Delivery: where a commercial good is transported, such as food, toiletries, diapers etc. This is for anything you would purchase in the store, but need immediately.
Public Safety is already delivering items like life preservers, first-aid kits and communication devices to areas and people in distress. In these situations, every minute is the deciding factor between a positive outcome or a tragic event. This type of drone delivery has already helped save many lives across the globe, like in the case of a life preserver being dropped earlier this month off of a Spanish beach, rescuing a 14-year-old swimmer in distress.
Medical drone deliveries are very prominent in Africa, South America, and between hospitals in western world countries. The time saving here can be tremendous, not just minutes, but hours, and have made a big difference to entire communities. Over 1 million COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered by drone in Ghana alone, while Botswana is investing in Avy drones that deliver medical supplies to help prevent maternal mortality.
Commercial cargo deliveries are transforming last-mile delivery. These deliveries positively impact the environment, including less traffic, less pollution and improve the consumer shopping experience. Commercial deliveries are now scaling up. For example, Walmart is expanding this service to 34 locations with instant drone delivery and thousands of cargo delivery flights are happening daily in Australia.
Are People Ready for this?
According to our Drone Delivery Report 2022, Americans are ready for drone delivery, with 64% saying that they see drone delivery as an option for home delivery, today or in the future. Home delivery has become the new convenience store, with groceries, clothing, household items, and food leading delivery orders for more than 80% of Americans.
80% of respondents said they receive home deliveries regularly and 47% would purchase from a specific retailer because of the drone delivery program option (and free drone delivery is even more appealing). Finally, Almost 45% are willing to purchase a permanent drone landing structure for their homes to make their drone delivery possible.
Of course, some Americans have concerns with drones, but when further investigated, these concerns are the same concerns raised by any other type of delivery.
All things considered, our findings show that Americans are ready and they value the user experience of instant gratification and are willing to make personal investments.
There are a few hurdles we need to overcome before drone deliveries become more common, the three biggest ones are regulation, current technology limitations, and infrastructure.
From a technical perspective, everything is ready, but there are legislative crinkles such as insurance issues that need to be ironed out. The reality is that regulation is always lagging behind technology; we have seen and experienced that in many different areas. Drone technology has come very far in the last decade and has become the safest form of aviation.
After many million flight hours, we have not seen a single confirmed fatality due to these commercial drone platforms. And with more operations being done beyond visual line of sight, we see the rise of more very impactful drone applications, from power and gas line inspections to search and rescue, disaster response, and drone cargo delivery.
Many entities, including NASA in the United States, are focusing on the future integration of crewed and uncrewed systems into our airspace. With the implementation of remote ID—the electronic license plate for drones—the industry is not only adding more transparency but also setting the foundation for proper connectivity and airspace awareness. All these single steps help with more, deeper and safer airspace integration.
The key to jumping over the regulatory hurdle is data management and exchange. For the many different entities to properly communicate and connect, they will need an interface and unified software platform—and the easiest way to achieve that is using a standardized and open source technology approach, which is the core of Auterion.
Technology and Infrastructure
The World Economic Forum predicts that urban last-mile delivery (bringing goods from a transportation hub to their final destination) is expected to grow by 78% by 2030. This means 36% more delivery vehicles on the road in the world’s top 100 cities. With health outcomes of CO2 emissions looking increasingly grim, drones may be beneficial for our health and our ecosystem beyond dropping medication at patients’ doors.
There are some technological and infrastructure challenges to overcome for full urban drone deliveries. On the technology side, most cargo delivery drones carry up to a maximum of 10 pounds and because of regulations and battery technology, the delivery range is limited.
On the infrastructure side, urban environments pose a challenge. For example, for apartment complexes and condo buildings, not every tenant will have their own “personal drop-off spot”. In the beginning, we might see “community drop-off areas”, which could be retrofitted rooftops or other forms of collection areas close by.
The infrastructure on the side of the providers also needs to be developed to keep up with the rise in demand as drone deliveries increase in popularity. We might see automated cargo loading and more.
These obstacles are being overcome and we will see drone cargo delivery as a successful, beneficial, and economical option across the globe.
The Next Step
The technology for drone delivery already exists, but we need to use it to build trust to make it a reality. This will be possible through:
- live-streaming of data;
- connectivity (LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth);
- drone tracking for all parties (recipient, deliverer, etc.);
- automated flight paths and collision avoidance; and so on.
All of the items are possible through Auterion’s Autonomous Mobility Platform.
Auterion at the core is a software company, based on open source and open standards. The mobile robotics industry needs an open foundation and a standardized approach to integration, deployment, and data workflows. Only then can it truly scale up and simplify the use of mobile robotics simpler and more acceptable to end-users.
Auterion can be likened to the Android of drones; we make the operating system that drone manufacturers, camera/sensor manufacturers, and app developers adopt and in turn integrate into each other’s technologies. In combination with the Auterion operating system, it’s possible to manage fleets of different types of drones and payloads, while utilizing end-to-end data workflow integrations, making mission management easy.
Onward and upward!