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Drone deliveries explode onto the scene

Updated: Apr 17

By Vira Patil, James Yu Apr. 3, 2024

Despite their bland, unassuming appearances, cardboard packages often excite shoppers whenever one is delivered to their door. However, the waiting time for these goods may frustrate many. Shipping company FedEx reports that packages delivered through their services could take up to five days to deliver. Even worse, orders made from international sellers take even longer to ship: according to Guided Imports, an American shipping company based in China, deliveries to the U.S. can take up to 45 days, along with steep delivery prices. In order to reduce shipment times, delivery services and online marketplaces are beginning to adopt drone technology to fulfill orders. 

“The worst part about online shopping is the wait to receive my order. Although online shopping provides a wide variety of products I would not be able to obtain shopping in-person, waiting days on end to receive my order makes online shopping an inefficient method of buying goods,” Junior Dominic Vu said.

Already, Amazon maintains two PrimeAir trial drone delivery services across the U.S.—one in Lockeford, California and the other in College Station, Texas, that have been operating for over a decade. However, news publication Axios reports that drone deliveries remain limited due to federal regulations preventing drones from flying without a visual spotter—someone being able to see the drone. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorized drones to travel long distances without a spotter last September, paving the way for drones to be incorporated into package delivery services on a larger scale. Other companies like Walmart have joined Amazon in developing drone delivery systems, although often utilizing third-party drone services like “DroneUp,” versus company-specific networks.

Although Axios furthers that drone deliveries can theoretically reduce delivery times to as little as 30 minutes after the package was ordered, there are still various limitations. For instance, Amazon has a five pound limit on goods shipped via drones and also requires sufficient space for the package to be delivered at a landing spot, such as a large front yard. Furthermore, drones also have flight altitude limits and must maneuver through flight zones, taking the most direct path while avoiding crashes or interfering with other drones and aircraft. On the bright side, delivery drones are fully capable of autonomous flights and can travel a maximum distance of five kilometers, according to CENT news. 

Drone delivery technology is also seeing worldwide adoption. For instance, in 2016, Zipline Systems, an American drone delivery company, began using autonomous drones to deliver blood to rural hospitals in Rwanda, significantly reducing mortality rates. The Asian market has long been the leader in 

“Even with their benefits, drone deliveries can be harmful to the climate as many batteries used for drones, EVs and more are sourced from environmentally destructive mines in developing nations, while oil or coal powered fuel plants are used to charge the batteries,” Junior Janele Ting said. 

Despite these hurdles, drones will likely see increased usage by delivery services in the coming years. Fortune Business Insight predicts that the commercial drone market will become a $54.8 billion industry by 2030. However, until issues involving capacity and space concerns are resolved, consumers’ dreams of instantaneous delivery may never fully reach the open skies.


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