Aug 9, 2017
Delivery drones may become widespread over the next five to ten years, particularly for small, light items. In the future, drones could augment, or even replace, truck fleets and could have important implications for energy consumption, air traffic management, road congestion, urban planning, and consumption patterns in urban areas. In this report, we use a geographic information system analysis to compare truck versus delivery drone energy use.
Delivery drones may become widespread over the next five to ten years, particularly for what is known as the "last-mile" logistics of small, light items. Companies like Amazon, Google, the United Parcel Service, DHL, and Alibaba have been running high-profile experiments testing drone delivery systems, and the development of such systems reached a milestone when the first commercial drone delivery approved by the Federal Aviation Administration took place on July 17, 2015. In the future, drones could augment, or even replace, truck fleets and could have important implications for energy consumption, public safety, personal privacy, air pollution, city noise, air traffic management, road congestion, urban planning, and goods and service consumption patterns in urban areas.
To support developing issues in this domain, the RAND Corporation launched an exploratory study that brings together RAND's expertise in unmanned aerial vehicle operations, transportation research, systems analysis, and behavioral analysis and applies it to this emerging and underexplored research area.
In this report, we provide a simple simulation of the total energy-use impact of shifting the most suitable (lightest total weight) 20 percent of the United Parcel Service (UPS) package delivery stops in Minneapolis from traditional UPS trucks to delivery drones. The reduced number of stops would allow for a smaller truck delivery fleet delivering to fewer service areas.
Analyzing the Impact on Energy Use of Shifting Delivery Stops from Trucks to Drones