The Energy Implications of Drones for Package Delivery
Sep 28, 2017
This report examines the developing technology for using drones to deliver packages and attempts to identify the societal impacts. In particular, the author estimates the potential effects on energy consumption, infrastructure requirements, aerial congestion, privacy, and noise for a range of cities and operating conditions.
The City-Scale Impacts of Drone Delivery
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Arabic language version
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Delivery drones are being widely developed as a potential way to deliver packages, but their rapidly developing technology and lack of precedent pose challenges to understanding the potential societal impacts. As policymakers sort out their available policy levers, simple city-scale models can help provide a preliminary understanding of the issues. This study develops a series of analytical expressions (equations) that can be used to compare the scale of these challenges and the various trade-offs that exist for city planners, policymakers, logistics companies, and drone designers. These equations can be used to explore the effect on energy consumption, infrastructure requirements, aerial congestion, privacy, and noise for a range of cities and operating conditions. The author finds that, in urban settings and with the drone designs being put forward, one can expect delivery energy to increase by up to an order of magnitude for some cities. In addition, this figure decreases drastically, as does the total number of drones needed for the city, if multiple delivery centers are established instead of one central location. In some environments, the adverse effects (including energy consumption) appear to be at a level low enough that, when combined with expedited delivery time lines, there can be a strong case for drone delivery.
This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted by the Science, Technology and Policy Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.
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