Drones are being seriously eyed as the next big thing in package delivery. No surprise, Amazon will probably be first and foremost in using the airborne vehicles to deliver the tons of goods they move on a daily basis. Happy or upset by that, for or against, it does not matter because the use of drones for deliveries is going to become a mainstream service soon.
By way of a study, the RAND Corporation believes there are big benefits to be reaped from delivery drones, but, as one would expect, there are certain hurdles to clear. For one, cities will need drone delivery centers spread across neighborhoods. These will be faced with air congestion, privacy, and noise issues.
Author of the RAND report, Andrew Lohn highlights benefits of drone technology but also points out drones may be problematic, but the problems are not insurmountable. Here are some of the problems found with their associated solutions.
The report says increasing the percentage of packages delivered by drones can significantly increase the energy consumed per package delivered. The solution offered is the energy per drone-delivered package can be significantly reduced by having many drone centers distributed throughout a city or region instead of using one centralized center. Simply put, the distances travelled by individual drones will be lessened by the availability of more home bases. It won’t decrease the number of drones in the sky.
As per the report, having many drone centers reduces the size of the fleet, aerial congestion, and the privacy and noise concerns that overhead drones create. How so? If many deliveries are scheduled, there will be many drones. It does not matter how far they have to travel.
The report says in some environments, the adverse effects, including energy consumption, appear to be at a level low enough that, when combined with expedited delivery time lines, there can be a strong case for drone delivery. First of all, if this is a new technology that promises to make things better, there should be zero adverse effects.
One thing not taken into consideration in this report is the true limitations of drones at this time when it comes to product delivery. Drones cannot deliver heavy goods, and by heavy we are not talking a lot of weight. Not only does this mean there are many items a drone can’t carry, but they are limited to the number of goods they can carry at one time. This translates into many one-shot deliveries. It also means they won’t be lowering the amount of surface-vehicle deliveries (trucks, vans, cars, etc.).
Overall, the report recommends that drone delivery systems should be encouraged by policy in some situations and discouraged in others, and that there can be substantial benefits to many parameters of interest by implementing policies that promote the use of multiple drone centers to service large cities as opposed to a single, centralized center. It estimates that within the next five to 10 years, “last-mile” drone delivery may become a standard part of American life.
Be that as it may, but drones could also have the benefit of providing some of us with good entertainment. You figure, with drones buzzing around constantly and all those folks walking about distracted by their smartphones …….. need I say more?
You can learn more about the subject by visiting the RAND report page. However, if you are not happy with the prospect of drones flying around you or your home, …… a picture is worth a thousand tweets. ~MD