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Will Commercial Drone Delivery Be a Thing?

Drone (also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or RPAS) delivery has been talked about in recent year but there still seems to be significant hurdles to widespread commercial adoption. Here are some of the challenges facing the adoption of this technology for delivery.

Regulations and Airspace Management

There is a complex regulatory environment governing drone operations. Ensuring the safe integration of drones into the airspace such as avoiding collisions and managing urban airspace are crucial challenges. This may be assisted by improved physical technology and software applications like NAV Drone to ensure the safe and compliant operation of a drone. An example of flight regulation is line of sight (LOS) requirements. Specific conditions have been added to allow for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations that will allow for an increased number of applications of drone delivery.

Safety and Security

Closely related to regulatory concerns are safety and security. Drones flying over populated areas could pose risks if they malfunction or crash. Incidents can also occur through deliberate actions or environmental factors (weather or birds). There are also security concerns relating to the potential misuse of drones for illegal activities. Drones create a new avenue for illicit trade, unwanted surveillance, and other malicious actions.

Physical Limitation

Current drone technology has limitations on the weight and distance they can carry, making it challenging to deliver larger or heavier packages over long distances. Battery technology still limits the flight time of drones, which affects their operational efficiency and range.

Environmental Limitation

Drones require relatively calm, dry, and moderate temperatures to operate. Harsh winters in Canada or extreme weather events will create disruption to a successful drone delivery program.

Drones may also cause concern in more densely populated areas. Dense urban areas, particularly for last-mile deliveries, may lack proper landing areas for delivery drones. Drones also create noise pollution that can become a nuisance to residents.

While I think the widespread use of drone delivery for your e-commerce order or food delivery still has a ways to go, some applications make a strong case.

  1. Emergency response and medical supplies: Drones can quickly deliver medical supplies, blood, and emergency equipment to remote or disaster-stricken areas.

  2. Rural and remote delivery: Drones can bridge the gap in logistics for remote or sparsely populated regions, where traditional transportation may be difficult or expensive.

  3. Agriculture: Drones can be used for precision agriculture, helping monitor crops, spray pesticides, and assess soil conditions.

  4. High-Value goods. It makes economic sense when goods have a high value to weight ratio or if an urgent delivery is required.

Generally, drones have been successfully implemented in content creation, entertainment, environmental monitoring, military, and possibly other areas I’m not aware of. However, for commercial drone delivery to be successful, advancement in both the technological and legislative areas needs to occur.

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