Why drone delivery has failed to deliver on its promises

In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos surprised friends and foes with the announcement that would be using drones to deliver packages to customers. FedEx, UPS and DHL later followed with plans for parcel delivery drones. But in 2022, drone delivery is still not commonplace. What went wrong? That is the subject of the short documentary The failure of drone delivery.

Too many ifs and buts

“Drone delivery would be the future. What went wrong?” That is the question that YouTuber Sam Denby tries to answer in the short documentary. How is it possible that drones are still not fully used to deliver packages, while there is more than ever online shopping and the traffic on the roads is increasing all the time?

Denby mentions in the documentary a number of reasons why drone delivery has not yet broken through. For example, the presence of no-fly zones around airports near cities represents a major challenge for drone operators. It is not impossible, but the legislation for flying in controlled airspace is quite an obstacle.

A second reason concerns safety. To make drone delivery cost-effective, the flights must be fully automated. But according to Denby, the technology has not yet developed sufficiently to make drones smart enough to guarantee safe deliveries. Even winch-based delivery systems are no guarantee for success, Denby thinks: not everyone has a free garden without obstacles.

In addition, there are many other factors that throw a spanner in the works. Some cities drop out because of the often bad weather conditions, other cities are too hilly, and in busy cities like , there is certainly no place where a drone could drop its payload. Ultimately, there are too many ifs and buts to achieve sufficient scale, concludes Denby.

Inflated expectations of drone delivery

An additional issue is that only a quarter of consumers are willing to pay more for same-day delivery.

“Consumers don’t care how their package is delivered, as long as it’s done quickly and cost-effectively. And since Amazon’s first announcement in 2013, a lot has changed in last-mile delivery, especially when it comes to meal delivery. When it comes to further automation, more can be expected from mobile delivery robots than from drones.”

Looking back, according to Denby, drone delivery is the textbook example of a ‘peak of inflated expectations’. Large-scale delivery of packages by means of drones will not take place. Instead, there will be specialist applications, such as transporting emergency medicines to remote areas. Only then can drone delivery continue to grow.

Why Drone Delivery Has Failed To Deliver On Its Promises 1

This article first appeared on Dronewatch and is written by Wiebe de Jager who is also a DroneXL contributor.

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Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager (@wdejager) is the founder of Dronewatch and author of several bestselling books about drone photography. Wiebe is a certified drone pilot and has a full ROC license.

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