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Drones That Deliver Packages, Is This The Future?

Drones That Deliver Packages, Is This The Future?

For several years, a lot has been written about how drones can improve supply chain management. Technology has improved, and regulations have been lowered. Now, drones have made their way into the conversation around home delivery.

Jeff Bezos started with Amazon Prime Air and its new drone delivery system. There has been a lot of expectation since then that this is the future of package delivery. This could be the future since more and more companies are jumping on board with this initiative. 

Before drone packaging delivery becomes a standard option across the country, there are several obstacles to clear. Other opportunities for drones seem to thrive. Based on the current state of drone usage, it appears that the future of drones is now.

The coronavirus pandemic helped to speed up adoption and use cases for aerial fleets.

drone carries box out of warehouse

Drones And Home Delivery: How It All Started

In December 2013 – almost eight years ago – Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, appeared on 60 Minutes. He expressed his idea of using drones for last-mile deliveries. In his presentation, he described Amazon Prime Air.

Amazon has tested prime Air delivery drones for years. Although we have made progress over that period, we are not yet where Bezos anticipated. Many companies have been testing drone deliveries over the last few years. And the technology has grown, especially after the FAA eased restrictions and approved many pilot tests.

Are Drones Being Used To Deliver Packages?

In the past five years, autonomous drone technologies have developed rapidly. From these rules, we can expect a commercial drone industry in the United States. Especially for package deliveries and last-mile logistics.

Here is a list of companies leading the advances of drone delivery. They are all developing their drone delivery services and systems. The majority of these systems are currently available commercially on a limited basis.

8 Companies That Handle Commercial Drone Delivery

  • Wing
  • Amazon Prime Air
  • UPS Flight Forward
  • Flytrex
  • Wingcopter
  • Zipline
  • DHL Parcelcopter
  • Boeing

Amazon Prime Air: Using Drones To Deliver Packages

Amazon Prime Air uses small drones (miniature UAVs) for delivery. Safely, they deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less within a 10mi (16km) radius. And Amazon produces its own drones. Amazon's drone delivery program has a bright future.

Amazon Prime Air uses the technology of multi-rotor miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (miniature UAVs). They use and deliver individual packages to customers.

The drones must deliver the order in less than 30 minutes with a payload of 5 lbs (2.25kg). In addition, it must be small enough to fit in the cargo box the craft will carry. The delivery location must be within a 10-mile (16 km) radius of an Amazon fulfillment center.

In the future, Amazon plans to use drones that weigh up to 55 lb (25 kg). Within a 10 mile (16 km) radius of its warehouses and at speeds of up to 50 mph (80.5 km/h). Even though the project is in its early stages, Amazon's technology can make it a reality.

Amazon has won many patents to continue its drone operations. This includes a floating blimp-like warehouse that would send out drones for deliveries.

drone drops package in persons hands

Drone Package Delivery Of Medical Supplies

The use of drones for the delivery of medicine and essential items is the tip of the iceberg.

Drones' best transportation use case is for delivering essential medical supplies. And this is exactly what the company Zipline has done. They started a program in October 2016 to deliver medical supplies in remote areas of Rwanda.

Zipline has taken what it learned from it and recently partnered with Novant Health. The goal, deliver personal protective equipment and medical equipment in North Carolina.

To help front-line workers, Zipline's drones make 32-mile flights on two routes. They go to Novant Health's emergency drone fulfillment center in Kannapolis. Then to the company's medical center in Huntersville, NC.

UPS and CVS have also paired up to focus on medical products. These two companies are partnering to use drones to deliver prescriptions. Especially to residents of The Villages in Florida. One of the largest retirement communities in the country.

CVS delivers from a store about half a mile away. Those are UPS's first paid residential drone deliveries. Drones deliver prescriptions to a central location. Then, a Flight Forward employee will transport them by golf cart to their homes.

This is much safer than delivering products directly to a customer's home. There, the drone can run into a person, or a child could try to grab the drone, and someone could get hurt.

Drone Package Delivery And Coronavirus

To combat the Coronavirus, drones are being used in a variety of ways.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of technological innovation. During this global pandemic, all drone uses have increased. Many other uses have emerged solely as a result of Coronaviruses. Drones have primarily been used for enforcing social distancing.

It is no surprise that Wing, the Alphabet subsidiary that uses drones to deliver last-mile goods, was one of the first companies to do so. The company did its first real-world drone delivery in 2014. The technology was also tested extensively in Australia.

It was the first company to be approved by the FAA to deliver products using drones. Wing partnered with Walgreens during the Coronavirus outbreak. It was to deliver prescriptions to people under quarantine.

How Much Would A Delivery Drone Cost?

The cost of delivery drones ranges from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars. A drone can cost between $3,000 to $5,000. This means $1,000 to $3,000 for the drone and $2,000 for software and maintenance, with an average cost of $4,000 per drone.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Delivery Drone Regulation

Delivery of packages, restaurant meals, and groceries is one step closer to reality. In particular, under new commercial drone regulations.

For the first time, unmanned aircraft will be able to operate both at night and over people. All that, under new rules established by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. These changes will boost the future landscape of the commercial drone industry. This is sending more companies to produce drone fleets. All to hurry deliveries – particularly for package delivery-.

FAA Added Rules For Commercial Drone Package Deliveries

Amazon, Alphabet Inc., and United Parcel Service already put money into drone technology. They are gearing up for the millions of packages projected to be delivered in the next few years.

For now, the FAA has permitted limited deliveries on packages weighing up to 5 pounds. Also, have to be delivered in 30 minutes or less. For drones driving at night, the FAA said they must be equipped with anti-collision lights. In some cases, they are allowed to move over vehicles.

Even so, several drone companies are embracing this disruptive delivery channel. By doing this, they let consumers receive drone deliveries directly to their homes.

Valqari, a startup in Chicago, has found a way to integrate landing pads into home design. The company is developing mailboxes for drone delivery and accommodating any kind of shipment, perishable foods, prescription drugs, or consumer goods.

As soon as a package is inserted into the mailbox door, an elevator raises it to a retractable door. It is then activated by the drone. The aircraft can then hook onto the parcel and take off for transport. Similarly, the tower for destination receives the dropped-off packages. It is then delivered straight to the mailbox.

The concept could also be placed to a side of a home or mounted onto a rooftop. In condos or apartment buildings, it could even take the form of an Amazon locker-style hub.

FAA Selected Companies For The Future Of Drone Packaging Delivery

The FAA has selected eight companies to help set out technical requirements for Remote ID. This is a required protocol. Drones will have to follow for location data. Then broadcast identification during flight.

amazon prime air page

In order to implement Remote ID, drone manufacturers would have to manufacture their products in a specific way. They need to be capable of sending out location data. In addition to ID codes when operating in the national airspace.

Drones without the Remote ID system could be flown, however, only in special FAA-designated zones. These are usually the same places where hobbyists fly model airplanes. The selected companies are:

  • Airbus
  • AirMap
  • Amazon
  • Intel
  • OneSky
  • Skyward
  • T-Mobile
  • Alphabet's drone subsidiary, Wing.

This move predicts well the future of drones.

Final Thoughts

Is the future of drone package delivery here? There have been plenty of trials for the use of drones for home delivery. The FAA has loosened restrictions, and eight companies were selected to help establish technical requirements for home delivery. But, there are still obstacles to overcome.