Drone Deliveries Are No Longer Pie In The Sky

Imagine ordering a pizza or toothpaste, and instead of it arriving in under an hour via moped or sedan (the pizza), or two days later via courier, they arrive in under 15 minutes, from the sky.? How long until that happens? In some places it already is.

For many of us, the idea of a swarm of drones buzzing overhead, delivering everything from sushi to groceries to phone cases still seems like pie in the sky. Indeed, the prospect of packages dropping on our heads or errant drones smashing into our homes, cars, or even commercial jets, are the reasons why strict regulations continue to remain in place throughout the world, holding back, to some extent, the burgeoning drone delivery industry (it’s still growing: in the U.S. alone from a $40 million industry in 2012 to $1 billion in 2017)

But that probably won’t last long. That’s because consumers have a swiftly growing appetite for faster and faster delivery – after all, it only takes the touch of a button to order an item, why shouldn’t delivery be equally instantaneous? While we customers crave almost instant deliveries, retailers are still bound by huge logistical costs and the enormous challenges of last mile delivery, including faraway fulfillment centers, prohibitive costs and traffic snarls. That’s why e-retailers are having such a tough time figuring out how to adapt to this on-demand revolution. Drone delivery then seems a faster, more environmentally friendly, cheaper and efficient future.

But will drone delivery solutions really fly?

Deutsche Post/DHL is testing deliveries of medicine from a pharmacy in Bonn. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images)

The good news is that over the past several years, there has been a salient shift in regulatory attitudes towards drone delivery as an inevitability which needs to be facilitated rather than a dangerous, far-fetched idea which regulation should keep permanently grounded.

In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is launching its UAS Integration Pilot Program which invites governmental bodies in select cities to partner with private sector entities to jointly accelerate safe Unmanned Aerial Systems. The program aims to provide comprehensive solutions for a wide array of issues, including advanced Universal Traffic Management, security procedures, anti-hacking protection, medical supply deliveries, as well as general commercial use.

Why are U.S. regulators finally getting on board? Aside from recognizing drones’ environmental benefits, it may just be that they don’t want to be left behind. My company’s recently launched autonomous on-demand drone delivery system in Reykjavik, Iceland, for example, may have broken the ice for other countries interested in adopting similar services. Projects in African countries such as Tanzania and Rwanda have demonstrated the life-saving benefits when drones deliver vital medicines and blood supplies, encouraging other countries to follow suit.  The Chinese courier SF Holding says it won a license to operate drones, opening up the possibility of drone delivery in a huge market.

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