Will Drone Deliveries Ever Take Off?

Home deliveries have skyrocketed in recent years. Fuelled by online shopping, the collapse of the high street and our increasingly busy lives, we now have everything from clothes to groceries delivered on a daily basis. A study by analysts Mintel claims that 49% of UK consumers did their grocery shopping online in 2018. But is there really a need for deliveries by drone, and what could this mean for the wider drone industry?

The general public have a growing expectation that unmanned aircraft will be delivering their pizzas and weekly shopping in the near future. Drone taxis ferrying passengers have also reached public awareness. The latter is hard to understand as piloted helicopters have been doing the same job very well for many years. Just this week, British inventor Richard Browning used a ‘rocket man’ suit to fly 1.3km across the Solent to deliver a letter to the Isle of Wight. A great PR exercise for ‘aeronautical innovation’ company Gravity Industries, but this kind of stunt also fuels the idea that deliveries will soon be coming from the air rather than a van.

Companies like Amazon have become incredibly efficient at managing home deliveries. The Amazon Prime Now service means you can access everything from pet food to toothpaste direct to your door in just a couple of hours. As well as the speed and efficiency of modern delivery services, the communication process is excellent. Using some services you receive a text message confirming that your items are in the back of ‘Bob’s’ van and that he will be arriving at your home in 15 minutes. What more could we ask for?

The potential cost of drone deliveries is something we must question. Efficient logistics by road mean that free delivery is common and is often a customer expectation. How much extra will people be prepared to pay for delivery by drone to get their items a little more quickly? The investment required to develop and maintain fleets of delivery drones will be huge. In addition, landing pads, charging stations and collection points will have to be installed across the country. 

The safety aspects of drone delivery services are of greatest concern to Drone Safe Register. Public perception of drones is already low, and an accident will further reduce confidence. It’s critical that moves to national drone deliveries are managed properly involving industry experts. Testing must be carried out away from public places. Failure of a drone parachute system caused a drone to crash 50 yards from a spot where children were playing in Switzerland earlier this year. The drone was part of a pilot scheme carrying samples between hospitals. Drone Safe Register are pleased to see innovative, practical use of drones, but public safety must always be the priority.

Some may dream of armies of delivery robots zipping around the UK’s skies, but others will have concerns about noise and disruption. At Drone Safe Register we want to ensure that the profile and perception of drones isn’t harmed by rushing into things that may not be necessary. Drone deliveries for rural areas will be a great step forward if managed properly, but we can’t see a need in cities and built up areas where current deliver services are already fast and efficient.

We launched a new drone delivery service April the 1st this year. Please watch the video below to learn more.