Drone technologies have been operated by the military for the past few decades and have now made their way into the consumer market. As a result, consumers can use drones not only for entertainment purposes but also for solutions to real word problems, one being package delivery. Drone package delivery will be able to benefit in both the economic and environmental scale. Companies like Amazon have plans on integrating these drone into society to distribute products as an alternate method. By using drone as a form of distribution, companies are able to cut down on transportation cost and create more jobs. Not only that, carbon emission will be significantly reduced due to drones operating on electricity. Although there is a huge benefit from this, it has many obstacles to overcome before this technology can be fully integrated into society.
Initially drones were never meant to be operate by ordinary people and are usually used by military personnel’s. Drones had high tech camera installed on them and were used to spy on the enemy to gather intel in order for the user to gain advantage over the other. As technology advances drones were then equipped with weapons. This results in a gain of overwhelming power to whomever controls it as human life does not have to be on board for the vehicle to work.With drones becoming smaller and coming into consumer market, its versatility skyrocketed. Many people have thought of different ways to implement drones into daily lives. Ideas range anywhere from using drones to monitor crops in agricultural use to mini drones that are able to autopilot itself in small cramped spaces for a search and rescue missions.
One idea brought up by Amazon, a massive online commerce, is being able to deliver goods using drone technology. This seems like a really good idea because of many benefits including being able to move through tough terrains and be able to avoid obstacles as needed. To add, with drones being powered electrically that mean there will be less carbon dioxide emissions as it will cut down on delivery vehicles on the road and overall better for the environment. Moreover, if drones are able to automate itself and fly from point a to point b, human interaction will not be needed and will result in less human error.Even with the benefits of using package delivery drones, there are always a downside. Safety is a must when operating a drone as the propeller can harm individuals when they get to close and there are also question on theft as drones can be shot out of the sky. When drones are in flight they must comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations as some areas like airports have a done not fly zone for drones. If drones are going to be used in residential area, drone will mostly likely not delivery big equipment such as a refrigerator. Most drone are only able to pick up about 10 pounds. Even if it is able to pick up a heavy load, the battery will be drained at an exponential rate and won’t be able to stay in flight for more than a few minutes.Environmental BenefitsElectricity is always the way to go if it can replace fossil fuel. Drones use little to no fossil fuel for it to function, in contrast most ground vehicles needs gas or diesel to run.
Although the upside of using a ground vehicle is that it is able to carry many more package than drones.The energy needed to turn crude oil into diesel fuel can add another 20 percent or more of greenhouse gases to the amount generated when the fuel is burned.  Even though manufacturing battery will still emit carbon dioxide, it will be significantly less if it can replace most ground vehicles. In general, power generated by electricity will only improve in the future and will replace most machine that uses oil to generate power.Even though drones are only capable or carry up to a specific weight, it can still be beneficial for the environment than ground vehicles. On average in the U.S., truck delivery of a package results in about 1 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. In California, drone delivery of a small package would result in about 0.42 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a savings of 54 percent from the 0.92 kg of greenhouse gases associated with a package delivered by truck in that state.  With this fact, it shows how promising switching to drone delivery can benefit the environment by lowering emissions.If drones are used for package delivery, the range of the drones will be limited as it can only go so far with a single charge. Companies would then have to change how they deliver their packages, one viable option is to setup multiple charge stations. Amazon has thought of this situation and have plans to create smaller amazon warehouse where the drone can switch its package with a fully charge drone and thus extending the range of the delivery.
This option will require more energy for it to function but researchers found four-rotor and eight-rotor drones can outdo delivery trucks when it comes to low emissions, particularly in states like California in which more electrical power comes from renewable-energy sources. Figure 1. Comparison of energy used between drones and trucksShown in figure 1, trucks use more energy and fuel combustions to transport packages as compared to smaller drones. For trucks to improve on energy efficiency it must need to increase the number of package it delivers per mile or switch to electric vehicles to deliver the package.For companies that are starting to test the water on drones, maximizing its potential will be key. Smaller drones will be more suited for delivering smaller light packages and limit the space dedicated for the drones, thus cutting down on unnecessary use of drones when it is not needed. Heavier package will be handled by ground vehicles as usual and preferably electric vehicles as they cut down on carbon emission more than regular gasoline vehicles. This way, the company using delivery drones will be able to maximize energy efficiency and minimizing carbon emission.
Package delivery with drones are slowly coming into reality as Amazon have announce Amazon Prime Air which promised customers 30 minutes delivery service for packages up to 5lbs. Every day 110 million orders are placed online. 91% of those orders 100 million of them are less than 5 pounds. If just 1% of those were delivered by drones, that would be 1 million drone package deliveries per day.  Studies shows that from years 2015 to 2025, package delivery drones will amount to about $82 billion in job creation and economic growth.  The use of package delivery drone will overall affect the public safety and agriculture than commerce. Since drones are versatile it can be used in agriculture to maintain crops and reduce exposure to diseases.Integration of UAVs will create over 100,000 jobs, many of which will most likely be manufacturing jobs. This will directly benefit both the consumer and the business industries. Consumer will have more jobs and increase in earning, business will have a cost-effective way to transport and distribute goods. With more than 100 million products being sold online on a daily basis, and almost 90% coming in the weight range that a drone can deliver economically, the report found that an online retailer could save $0.76 per delivery.  Roughly, industries as big as Amazon will have an annual saving anywhere from $2 billion and $10 billion.Figure 2. Price comparison between Amazon drone delivery vs. traditional delivery methodIn Figure 2, prices are compared between Amazon’s drone delivery service vs. tradition delivery service and it clearly shows how cheap it can get to delivery packages that are 5 pounds or less with drones. Prices can get as low as $1 as compared to other companies that can range anywhere from $4.99 and up for a small package.Even with the benefit that comes with the integration of this technology, many people have concerns on privacy.
With amazon using cameras on their drones, it does not help in this situation. Moreover, drone delivery can face many road blocks along the way. If packages were to be delivered the traditional way, companies can maintain liability of damaged or stolen property. In contrast, drone delivery will be without human interaction and will be unable to provide a smooth delivery process. Delivery in cities will be difficult too as drones will not be able to access apartment building and there won’t be any way to fly the drones indoor because of safety hazard. Wildlife will be of a concern because birds will face a higher risk if there are large number of drones in the air. The FAA estimates that birds cause more than $1 billion in damages to aircrafts in the United States. As research continues, Amazon pushes the FAA to be less rigid on regulations. Integrating drone delivery business into society will not only benefit businesses like amazon but also agriculture, public safety, and natural disaster management. Economic growth from integration of drone delivery will create more jobs and cut cost on more effective means of transportation.Safety and RegulationAlthough the thought of having package delivery drone sounds intriguing, it must follow rules and regulations. Thus, the integration process for this this type of technology will be difficult and must overcome many obstacles.
Currently, unmanned air vehicles (UAV) in the U.S are allowed flight up to 400 feet in populated area for entertainment purposes and commercial use of drones are still illegal. Whether it’s inclement weather, a software malfunction, or some ne’er-do-well with a catapult and a rock, we have to accept that those multi-copter contraptions will sometimes get into difficulties and fall all the way back to the ground.  Fortunately, FAA are providing license to companies to test delivery drones in specific area.Drones are not perfect and they can and will fall from the sky if there is a malfunction. There are many variables that can cause drone to fall from the sky whether it is a malfunction in the technology itself or inclement weather. Weather including but not limited to heat, cold, rain, and hail could affect the drone’s rotors, flight controller, battery, sensors, or other components. These are some of many challenges FAA is facing and preventing this technology from advancing. However, Amazon came up with a solution that will allow the drones break itself into smaller pieces in mid-air and minimizing the damage it will cause to any human, animal, or object on the ground.
This is a simple method but the outcome of this solution still cause damage to whatever is below the drone when it falls apart. FAA realizes that and therefore preventing drone delivery from progressing until a more ethical method is thought up.Drones are also a target for teenagers as they might view it as a form of game and start to compete with each other to see who shoots down the most drones. Not only that, since drones are not capable of defending itself once they get shot down the package will mostly likely get stolen by the shooter. One solution is after the compromised module has detected and mitigated a threat, it will proceed to send out an alert with location data, so that authorities find the drone and, hopefully, the attacker.  This method does not guarantee that the package will be recovered and can cost businesses thousands of dollars to replace stolen items. On top of that, package theft is still on the rise even without drone delivery. Packages left on the front porch can easily be taken by anyone. Another method of theft is hacking into drones wirelessly.
Companies like Amazon has already taken into account of this method of theft and thought of a method to counteract it. If a malicious person attempts to gain control of the UAV, the compromise may be detected, and the UAV may enter a fail-safe mode in which the UAV returns to base. Privacy is also important since drones will most likely use a camera for functional and security purposes. Unfortunately, the camera is one of the main components of the drone and most likely not able to function without it. Amazon, however, has a patent titled Trigger Agents in Video Streams from Drones. This patent describes a system in which the drone, upon arriving at the house, will scan a photo of the house and sends it back to Amazon. This allows Amazon to run the image into an image recognition algorithm and determine what other product the customer might be interested in. Many people don’t want big companies to spy on their family but this patent serves as a reminder that convenience sometimes comes at the expense of privacy. Drones delivery are great and all but when it comes to safety and regulation, it still has a long way to go before it can be implemented.
When drone delivery was first announced by amazon, many people were looking forward to the progression of this idea and hoping it will become reality. Unfortunately, because of regulations, progress has been brought to a halt but businesses like Amazon has been ambitious and working on getting drone delivery service technology out. Even so, drone delivery service has plenty of potential to be integrated into society as it has plenty of benefits for the environment and economy.
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