Drone delivery- how close are we?

This post was written by Shea Odonnell on 11, Jan, 2017

Ever since drone technology became more accepted in mainstream culture, the world has been eagerly awaiting the days until drone delivery services become the norm. In a time when services such as Deliveroo and Amazon Prime can get our food or consumer goods to us faster than ever, bringing things into the air could reduce our waiting time to just under an hour. As well as making life for consumers much more convenient, the opportunities this could present for a wide range of businesses are endless. Unfortunately this dream, much like many other potential drone applications must face a number of challenges before it can become a reality, with legal and technological hurdles restricting the realisation of a tangible drone delivery service.

Amazon makes drone delivery debut
However, this month history was made as Amazon Air’s first drone delivery was successfully completed in the UK, taking just 13 minutes from initial online order to final delivery to the customer. The fact that a mission of this kind went smoothly is a huge step forward for the potential of this application, yet we are still a long way off traditional delivery services becoming a thing of the past.

Amazon received special permission from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to enable this innovation, and the online retailer was granted authority to fly beyond the line of sight in rural and suburban areas, something which is currently unlawful for other operators, and they were also given consent for pilots to fly more than one drone at a time. The successful delivery this month is part of an ongoing trial which will allow Amazon continue to test its services. These trials must take place during daylight hours and only under particular weather conditions.

Further drone delivery advancements
Amazon is not the first company to offer an insight into the future use of drones, as American university, Virginia Tech and Project Wing, Google’s drone delivery project also started trials of a drone delivery service last September. Together, in partnership with fast food chain Chipotle they transported burritos to students who ordered the meals from buildings adjacent to the Chipotle’s food preparation truck, with the area of delivery restricted to a closed site on the University campus.

In the space of a few months we have seen two landmark moments in drone flight in 2016. The technology that is being trailed using consumer goods could soon be used to save lives, delivering aid to emergency sites and transporting vital equipment to assist inhabitants of remote areas.

Due to the updated FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) drone regulations in September, the Virginia Tech and Project Tech trials could take place in the USA within the legal limitations, yet in the UK businesses are still restricted by the articles set out on the ANO (Air Navigation Order). We are edging closer to widespread drone delivery, but a long series of tests and regulatory updates must occur before it becomes the norm.

When will we see widespread drone delivery?
Could 2017 be the year that businesses replace their delivery vans for aerial vehicles? If so, what effect will this have on industry as we know it?

While we cannot help organisations set up drone delivery services just yet, at ConsortiQ we have the knowledge and experience to help organisations realise the business potential of drone technology in a range of industries. Get in touch to learn how to future proof your business using UAVs, or call +44 (0)208 0450 322.