Take a look around your house. Does the food in your kitchen come from your home city? Where were your clothes made? The things you own have probably travelled from more places than you will ever see in a lifetime. Sit for a few moments and consider where everything in your home came from and try to imagine how it got there. Transportation is the backbone of our global economy, it’s responsible for 27% of all greenhouse gases, and its also one of the largest sources of employment in the world.
Most of what you own probably comes from a different part of your country or different part of the world. In America, fruits and vegetable travel an average distance of 2,000 miles from farm to fridge. How far does the average American travel to get their food? What about Europe? China? For a very large number of people, the answer is just a few minutes of walking or driving. Since it is so easy to shop and buy things, it’s easy to forget how much work goes into bringing products to the customers. However, it’s about to get even easier. Drones (robots that fly by themselves) could cut huge amounts of pollution and also push online shopping to the next level… and also end millions of jobs.
Currently, most drones are used for taking pictures and video. However, several companies are working to make drone deliveries become a more efficient option than using human workers to carry food and other products to buyers’ homes. Government regulations for airspace (especially in countries like the United States and Canada) are very tight and make it difficult to use newer technologies. After all, flying unmanned drones around cities and over peoples’ houses could be unsafe if not managed carefully! There is actually a system to measure drone technology developments. The 7th generation drones can get government regulations for commercial use:
The bigger companies all have 6th generation drones for sale and some of the most professional products are moving into generation 7. Here are three companies trying to put the tech to worldwide, commercial use:
Amazon is the largest e-commerce (online sales) company in the world. One of their coming services, Prime Air, will use drones to deliver products to customers. This is a key part of Amazon’s plan to make 50% of deliveries carbon neutral by 2030. They have been testing their tech in one city in the U.K. countryside for several years now. In 2019, Jeff Wilke, an executive at Amazon said Prime Air [drones] would be out of testing and delivering products within months, but as of April 2020 it still hasn’t happened.
Zipline uses drones to deliver medical supplies to “hard to get to” places around the world. This company is already operating in at least 5 countries. Their drones do not land on the ground to deliver medicine, and the service the company provides is for emergency situations. They currently supply medicine to over 120,000,000 people in India.
Wing is a company under Google that “is developing a new method of transporting goods that’s faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than what’s possible today on the ground.” Basically, it is just like Prime Air. However, it is already used commercially in Australia to deliver medicine, coffee and products from local businesses.
At this point, drone technology is still in the earliest stages of use for the transportation sector. It will likely take years and years before this technology becomes completely accepted by governments and society, so all the millions of truck drivers, mailmen and mail-women should have years to train-up and find a new job! However, (if you want my guess) there is a chance drone deliveries will develop faster in places like Africa, South America, and India where big economic growth is expected, but with fewer regulations and under developed systems for transportation.