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Delivery Drones Are Key to Fighting COVID-19

Ryan Citron
Apr 24, 2020

Drone

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to hinder the global economy, promising technologies and new business models are emerging to deliver goods to consumers in safe ways. Drones represent one of the key technologies that can offer fast and contactless delivery. Major global firms in the logistics industry have developed spinoff delivery drone companies, including the following:

  • Alphabet (Wing Aviation)
  • Amazon (Prime Air)
  • UPS (UPS Flight Forward)
  • Uber (through its Uber Eats subsidiary in collaboration with Uber Elevate, the company’s urban air mobility division)
Drones Can Help Deliver High Priority Goods and Medical Supplies

As COVID-19 spreads, drones are increasing their current delivery speed. Since the onset of the pandemic, Alphabet’s Wing Aviation has doubled its number of deliveries by drone in the US and Australia. In fact, in a 2-week span (late March through early April 2020), the company has reportedly made over 1,000 drone deliveries. Social distancing measures are driving increased demand for consumer goods, and Wing is ramping up deliveries while adding new product options such as baby food, pasta, and toilet paper.

In addition to food and consumer goods, drones can be used to safely deliver medical equipment such as lab tests or medical supplies. UPS Flight Forward has completed more than 1,500 revenue-generating drone deliveries since March 2019 as part of the hospital delivery program at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. Japan-based Terra Drone has already been safely transporting medical supplies in China in response to COVID-19: the company is transferring packages from Xinchang County’s disease control center to the Xinchang County People’s Hospital.

Drones May Be Needed for Further Support

As the struggle to maintain social distancing continues, drones are likely to play an important role in the fight against COVID-19. Wing Aviation and Terra Drone have demonstrated how drones can help with contactless delivery of high priority goods and assist the healthcare industry in the transportation of medical supplies. Guidehouse Insights expects these drone delivery rates to increase as the pandemic continues. Also, drones may increasingly be used in applications such as crowd management, the disinfection of public areas, and the deployment of more widespread COVID-19 testing. For more information on drones, see Guidehouse Insights’ report, Delivery Bots and Drones Could Revolutionize Last-Mile Logistics, which discusses the current state and future deployments of drones and other automated technologies.