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How Delivery Drone Suppliers Can Move Toward Widespread Adoption

Ryan Citron
May 05, 2020

Drone

In my previous blog, I outlined how delivery drones are emerging as a key technology in the fight against COVID-19. Several companies have demonstrated how drones can help with the contactless delivery of high priority consumer goods and assist the healthcare industry in the transportation of medical supplies. This blog focuses on actions drone suppliers can take to build off the increased demand from COVID-19 and encourage more widespread adoption over the coming decade.

Market Size and Projections

Guidehouse Insights’ report, Delivery Bots and Drones Could Revolutionize Last-Mile Logistics, anticipates that delivery drones will make over 420 million deliveries annually by 2030. The COVID-19 crisis is resulting in a ramping up of deliveries that will likely result in the surpassing of previous 2020 forecasts; Guidehouse Insights previously estimated that delivery drones would make roughly 43,000 deliveries in North America and 179,000 globally in 2020.

Annual Package Deliveries by Drone, World Markets: 2020-2030

Annual Package Deliveries by Drone, World Markets: 2020-2030

(Source: Guidehouse Insights)

Recommendations for Drone Vendors

While regulatory reform will be crucial to enable the widespread use of delivery drones, Guidehouse Insights recommends delivery drone manufacturers and operators focus on several priorities they can control to move the industry closer to large-scale adoption. These priorities include the following:

  • Extend electric range: Delivery drones currently have limited electric range. Most devices can travel just 10–15 miles per charge. One way drones could potentially extend their range would be to integrate their delivery routes with public transport—that way drones could land atop buses to piggyback in the right direction, saving vital battery power. Similar integrations are possible with automated vehicle fleets, postal delivery vehicles, or other existing road users. According to researchers at Stanford University in California, drones could travel nearly 5 times as far using this approach. 
  • Reduce noise issues: Residents have complained about the noise associated with several pilot delivery drone programs. The noise from rotors will have to be significantly reduced if drones are to be accepted as a mainstream technology by the public.
  • Protect privacy: Drones are equipped with multiple cameras and consumers will likely be uncomfortable with new devices passing by (or over) their homes. As seen in other rapidly developing technology markets such as smart cities, consumers will strongly resist technology adoption if privacy issues aren’t adequately addressed. The drone industry needs to articulately explain to consumers how they will actively protect privacy from the onset.
  • Improve safety: Regulators and consumers will strongly resist adoption if early delivery drone trials are viewed as unsafe. Drone manufacturers should include numerous safety features such as rotor redundancy, the provision of parachutes, and advanced software that can take over drone control in the event of a communications loss to maximize fail-operational capability.