A truck and drone delivery system could be the future of last-mile delivery logistics, however, significant regulatory hurdles are preventing the model from taking off, say MIT researchers.
Regulatory hurdles prevent truck and drone delivery system from taking off
MIT researchers Farri Gaba and Matthias WInkenbach write in their report ‘A Systems-Level Technology Policy Analysis of the Truck-and drone Cooperative Delivery Vehicle System‘ that:
This paper concerns a systems-level assessment of the truck-and-drone cooperative delivery system and its integration into urban environments. The analysis is grounded in an assessment of the regulatory environment currently applicable to truck-and-drone logistics, with a particular focus on the state of small unmanned aerial vehicle regulation in the United States. This is followed by a broad discussion of the social, environmental and operational implications of such a system deployed at scale and its potential impact on society.
The paper concludes with an appraisal of the compatibility between today’s relevant regulation and the evolving truck-and-drone system technology. A proposal for an adaptive regulatory framework to guide the safe, responsible development and deployment of this emerging technology is then proposed that suits the technology’s various stakeholders; citizens, municipalities, relevant regulatory bodies and logistics firms.
In the conclusion of the report, the researchers state:
it remains unclear what the path forward is for drones, not to mention for the T&D system. In both ground-based and aerial operations, the T&D system will likely face a heterogeneous mix of regulatory constraints. These will come from municipalities, which may pose operational but also more socially-motivated constraints, the FAA, the FCC, the NHTSA, and the FMCSA. Whilst this does not mean the future of the T&D system is unlikely, it will undoubtedly be difficult.
Whilst the future of the T&D system in the “last-mile” remains uncertain, we can be sure that the “last-mile” problem is here to stay and the key players will continue to conjure up iterations of this technology or entirely new concepts in search of a competitive edge. The technology policy question will remain central in this space.
But when there is a problem, there is an opportunity – the United States, its citizens and the logistics industry are in a strong position to capitalize on it.
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Photo: Matternet-Mercedes-Daimler Prototype. Credit: Korosec 2016