Although Unmanned Aerial Systems — or drones — were first employed on the battlefield, they are also being used in commercial applications, such as maintaining large buildings and cell phone towers, and they already deliver mail and medicine to hard-to-reach places. The reach of commercial drones is expanding, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimating that nearly 3 million commercial drones will be flying by the year 2020. Google and Amazon are making big investments in drone technology. And start-ups such as Zipline, Flirty, and Matternet are already in the air. This video highlights issues explored in detail in a series of forthcoming RAND reports on the future of commercial delivery drones. These issues include technical matters — vehicle design, air traffic control, and energy consumption — as well as locations where drone use makes the most sense (e.g., in urban versus rural environments); their impact on emissions, traffic congestion, and noise; privacy, data, and liability concerns; and the need for new regulations to deal with all of the above.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors, the fees earned on client-funded research, and independent research and development (IR&D) funds provided by the Department of Defense.

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