U.S. Consumer Drone Delivery Programs Triple Overnight


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We’ve heard a lot recently about how drone delivery could help with measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., with the two primary types of operations discussed being delivery of goods to support social distancing and medical deliveries.

Despite the talk, the reality is that the U.S. only has one consumer drone delivery program (Wing’s program in Christiansburg, VA) and one medical drone delivery program (UPS and Matternet’s program in Raleigh, NC).

At least, that was the reality until this week.

Just a few days ago, Israeli drone delivery company Flytrex announced that it will be launching a drone delivery pilot program in Grand Forks, North Dakota. And the next day, UPS’ Flight Forward announced that it will start delivering medicine by drone from a CVS to The Villages, a huge retirement community in northern Florida.

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Read today's article to learn more about these two new consumer drone delivery programs.

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One of the things that is often debated on this forum is the effect of negative press from someone doing something stupid with a drone.  Flying over downtown NY to get some great cityscapes for example.  That sort of debate should also take place regarding this sort of article, not for the sake of criticizing the article but to challenge the efficacy of the service or claims being made about this type of service.

A quick disclaimer, for those that might not have clicked through to the article, Zack focuses mostly on the regulatory framework and the different kinds of Part 135 etc.  However, shouldn't there be a debate on the claims companies are making regarding the success of these programs? 

I would like to think that the folks on this forum, people interested in a career that involves UAS, are able to think critically and discuss this developing market in a constructive way.  It's important, if we can't have conversations about this that reach the broader mainstream narrative, then this industry runs the risk of being irrelevant before it ever gets started.

Reports like these can do irreparable harm to the way the general public perceives of this industry:

 https://dronelife.com/2020/04/21/ups-drone-delivery-droneup-partners-fly-to-prove-the-case-for-coronavirus-response/

https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/droneup-ups-testing-coronavirus-medical-supply-delivery

Even taking some of this rhetoric at its word, how feasible is delivering packages with an Inspire2, some string and a bag?  Flytrex claims it can deliver up to 6.6 pounds, it lowers its payload from 80 feet, how long does that take?  They use a DJI M600, how many deliveries do you think an M600 can make lowering up to 6.6 pounds 80 feet before having to swap out $1450 worth of batteries?  

How much can they charge for this type of service?  How much does it cost to provide it?  Is anyone else curious about the scalability?  Because of the hype associated with drone delivery and the need for NPUASTS to issue press releases on their "success" what affect is this having on public perception?  Apparently drone companies can say anything, especially if you mention COVID-19 and the public will believe it.  Is that really what we want?

PRESS RELEASE:

This just in -- Aerial Alchemy produces latest Star Wars movie in one take using a drone!"

Oh yeah --  FOR SALE:

  1. 1 super powerful mini quad that can carry a 6.6 pound payload on one 500MAh battery for three hours.                              $50.00
  2. 1 high tech eight axis gimbal (string)        $55,000.00
  3. 1 Canon 5DS (only dropped a few times) $3,500.00
  4. 1 DJI don't drink the Koolaid shirt              $Priceless

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Totally agree that the 'ra ra' attitude we're seeing right now about drone delivery in the general press regarding help with COVID-19 is overlooking all of the complexities your bring up Chuck. There's also that recent report pointing out that drone delivery may not even be better for the environment (https://thedronegirl.com/2020/05/04/delivery-drones-energy/).

One of my main goals in this reporting, as always, is to provide the facts while trying to be as impartial as possible. We've been seeing hype about drone delivery for years now (remember Flirtey's press conference for delivering a box of donuts?). For this piece in particular, I did think it was remarkable that two new drone delivery operations have opened up shop in such a short period of time, but I downplayed the COVID-19 connection b/c it has been so over-covered (and possibly over-valued).

What interests me more than drone delivery is the forward movement with regulations. The FAA is starting to slowly open things up and move forward with BVLOS, which could have implications beyond just drone delivery. That being said, most of the new permissions are only going to huge companies right now, so it could be that any 'trickle down' value for soloprenuers or even medium-sized drone service operations will be non-existent.

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