The impact of drones: Flying to the Future

Drone, the common name for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), has been around for decades since they were initially designed for military use. However, in the last decades, drones became commercially available and gained popularity, due to their manifold applications: agriculture, civil defence, energy, construction, real estate, logistics, media production and security tasks.

As drones are becoming more versatile and cheaper to manufacture, many industries such as the e-commerce ones now understand their capabilities, including being a delivery machine. Several major companies such as Wing Aviation, Walmart, Amazon Prime Air and UPS Flight Forward are piloting drone package delivery. If companies move towards a drone delivery system, then last-mile delivery will be simpler and even faster than moving trucks full of goods over hundreds of miles for hours.

Drones generally use propellers and rechargeable batteries to attach packages underneath the drone’s body. Delivery drones are operated autonomously or remotely through a ground-controlled station. The drone operators potentially oversee multiple flying drones at once, keeping track of every package delivered via wireless network links to each drone. These advanced machines rely on GPS systems and satellite technology to follow paths to deliver packages to the customer’s location. The design of delivery drones appears in all shapes and sizes. Most commercial drones are rotary drones, which can fly because of the rotating propellers that, along with stabilization technology, maintains the drone’s position in the air and give drones the ability to move, stop and turn to avoid obstacles or change course. The built-in sensors and cameras enable the drone to identify a nearby object’s proximity and speed, enabling the drone to take a responsive action to avoid the obstacle. Drones can be as small as backpacks or as large as small aeroplanes. More significant packages require a more robust and efficient performance drone to carry out the delivery operation.

The introduction of delivery drones has stimulated discussion of what the technology can accomplish in terms of reduced vehicle travel. This brings us to the benefits of the drone delivery system over the traditional vehicle delivery system. Thanks to drone deliveries, many retailers such as Amazon now offer same-day delivery. Another good thing is that drones have greater route flexibility than conventional vehicles: they can travel over congested areas and reach far off rural areas where cars and trucks may have difficulty getting to, due to bad or narrow roads. Free from the constraints of vehicle traffic, a drone could make those deliveries in a matter of minutes, without wasted time and risks of accidents. Drone deliveries will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions as it delivers packages without increasing emissions, so it has significantly less impact on the environment than fossil fuel-powered trucks.

Although drone deliveries have many benefits, they have some limitations. Researchers are constantly working to make drones lighter, stronger and faster and confront security concerns. One of the main limitations is cost. For now, only a handful of companies outside China produce drones capable of commercial deliveries. Another limitation is the noise. The FAA recommends the aircraft noise in residential areas stay below an average of 65 decibels at any given 24 hours period and a commercial delivery drone clocks in between 75 and 90 decibels. Constant commercial delivery drone noise would exceed the faa recommendations for safe levels of noise pollution. Many people are nervous about the privacy risk posed by drones flying over their homes. As package theft is an issue that customers will face with regular delivery and drone delivery, some e-commerce companies have patented an anti-hacking technology for their future drone delivery programs. With the technology, the drone will halt its delivery and look for a safe place to land if it stops receiving a specific signal, but many people aren’t sure how effective this technology is.

So, with drone deliveries quickly becoming a reality, the need for security coordination and proper logging is a must for the future. On the other hand, drones need to have a specific area which they can fly from to stick to the 30 minutes or less delivery time promised by most e-commerce companies. Therefore, the companies will need to have more warehouses or dispatch centres sprinkled worldwide, especially in urban and suburban areas.

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