A Slow Takeoff for Drone Deliveries
Thu, April 22, 2021

A Slow Takeoff for Drone Deliveries

Murky regulations and challenges in tech development remain a problem in drone deliveries / Photo Credit: Mopic (via Shutterstock)

 

As opportunities lay abound in the last-mile delivery segment, organizations from parcel giants UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. to online retailer Amazon and the Canadian government have started limited deliveries using drones, wrote B. Cameron Gain of Transport Topics, a leader in trucking and freight news. However, challenges in technology development and a murky regulatory framework could hinder the widespread adoption of drones before they become an integral part of delivery services. Robert Braswell, executive director at the Technology & Maintenance Council of American Trucking Associations, said, “Last-mile deliveries are a big thing now, of course, and last-mile delivery solutions are transforming fleet maintenance, as everybody is trying to reduce their carbon footprint.” 

Electric bicycles, scooters, vehicles, and other last-mile alternatives are already in use. But regulatory and technology issues remain in the drone delivery segment. Braswell noted, “These drones operate in that airspace between the ground and where air traffic participates and ensuring a continuous signal from point A to point B without interruption are still major issues.” 

For example, FedEx is developing drones for its last-mile deliveries with other potential alternatives. It is working with Wing to enhance last-mile delivery for same-day delivery of “urgent shipments, rural or semi-rural deliveries and other exceptional delivery needs,” explained Joe Stephens, FedEx Express senior vice president of global engineering and transformation. FedEx is also collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration to test drone technology at Memphis International Airport for various on-airport operations.  

On the other hand, Amazon unveiled a new AI-powered drone last year to deliver its packages safely. It announced its successful drone deliveries in 2016, effectively capturing people’s imagination. However, Amazon has yet to announce commercial delivery volumes with drones. Jonathan Bass, Wing’s head of marketing, said drone deliveries have the potential to improve the way we live by delivering items we need in a span of minutes. However, drones could be vulnerable to hacking due to their remote capabilities, noted Chris Morales, head of security analytics at cybersecurity firm Vectra. He added that the problem becomes a shared responsibility between the manufacturer and the owner.