Does the Future of Delivery Lie with Drones

Latest Amazon Prime Air delivery drone design. Photo: Amazon

We all remember the movies “Back to the Future” and “Fifth Element,” which show flying cars are the future transportation style. We have yet to see these flying cars. However, we have seen drones becoming more popular with delivering supplies. Is it possible that we will receive all packages by drones in the next ten years?

Latest Amazon Prime Air delivery drone design
 Latest Amazon Prime Air delivery drone design. Photo: Amazon

Growth in Use of Drones

In 2016, the FAA was approached by the World Economic Forum about the use of drones for commercial use. They implemented Part 107 to govern this aspect of usage, and the number of drones registered for recreational and commercial use has grown over a million. Businesses cashed in on this network during the COVID pandemic by offering a way to get medical supplies to those who needed them without endangering their employees.

Delivery Companies Taking Advantage

So far, Amazon and UPS are the only two companies in America taking advantage of the delivery options. Skyward is part of the Verizon network, and they have been testing drones to provide small communities with necessary medication. Verizon is also testing their 5G networks to ensure drones perform and what additional security is needed. UPS took Skyward and obtained a Part 135 Certification from the FAA in October 2020 to remove barriers for testing the market. This certification has two levels, and only UPS qualifies for drones to have more than one pilot. Amazon is cleared to use one pilot to direct the flight, and it must not leave that operator’s sight. UPS, on the other hand, can: fly at night, over heavily populated areas, and carry cargo over 55-pounds. Amazon continues to battle with the FAA, despite having executives on the Drone Advisory Committee with the FAA. The company has not given up and continues to announce this is a goal.

Challenges with Drone Delivery

One of the biggest obstacles that businesses must overcome is many businesses and homes are inside other buildings. Drones can deliver to the exterior of apartment buildings and high-rise real estate, but they cannot enter. Testing is currently only possible in remote areas or homes with large yards/porches. In addition, porch pirates are a current battle with leaving packages on the doorstep. The ability to secure delivery and the drone is a fear of many companies.

 Amazon Prime Air concept of operations.
Amazon Prime Air concept of operations. Photo: Amazon

As we continue to watch the progress made with Amazon and UPS, the future is turning to the air. The pandemic sparked a renewed interest, especially with concerns on safety. There is great potential moving forward, especially with making delivery driver jobs faster and more efficient.