Aug 9, 2017
As the demand for commercial deliveries increases within cities, companies face a fundamental limitation in surface road capacity. Drone delivery aims to overcome that limitation by exploiting the vertical dimension above city streets. This report explores the vehicle design aspects of the delivery drone problem, including flight efficiency, energy consumption, noise, and safety, which are central to the viability of delivery drones. Importantly, such design aspects also speak to the potential scalability of the concept.
A brief analysis of the requirements shows that a 10- to 15-mile delivery radius is likely sufficient to cover most U.S. urban areas. A vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) delivery drone can ease operations at the terminal area at a cost-to-flight efficiency. The limited delivery range and payload requirements, coupled with the power efficiency of electric motors at small scales, makes VTOL designs viable.
To better understand the short-term technical viability and future prospects of delivery drones, we developed and tested a simple delivery drone performance model. The model takes in a host of vehicle and mission parameters and assumptions, chief among which are the aerodynamic, structural, and propulsive efficiencies, and the battery energy density. The model is high level, and the parameters are based on analogous systems.
Requirements That Drive Drone Delivery
Performance and Outlook
Summary of Modeling Assumptions