On Wednesday, RAND Corporation released a research report on delivery drones titled ‘What’s the Buzz? The City-Scale Impacts of Drone Delivery’. The report specifically deals with city package deliveries using drones, using mathematical models to assess the impact on energy consumption, infrastructure requirements, aerial congestion, privacy, and noise.
The report does not go into the effect that weather could have on drone delivery logistics, but that is understandable. The logistics industry still has many other, more immediate, challenges to solve before even getting to the point of solving for weather.
I have pulled out some of what I found interesting in the report. Below that you can read the report for yourself as it is quite comprehensive and asks some interesting questions regarding mass delivery by drone vs delivery by truck vs a combination of both.
Personally, I just do not see mass drone deliveries in cities being a viable means of package delivery long term. Airspace management, recreational vs commercial congestion and privacy are big factors attributing to why I do not see it at the moment. Also electric drive and autonomous driving technologies are improving quite rapidly, by the time safe and efficient mass city drone delivery is solved, the need for it might have already fallen away.
Where I do see drone deliveries happening is outside the cities in the more rural areas. The DHL Parcelcopter trial (see first video below) is a good example of using a drone to deliver packages to remote, hard to reach by truck places. We will likely first see fully autonomous Cessna Caravan’s doing the night cargo runs for Fedex and perhaps not long after that begin to see Caravan size tilt-wing, or other separate lift thrust VTOLs, doing runs to remote places from where a truck (eventually fully automated and electric) then distributes the packages on street leve