Feasibility study of using drones to deliver goods : cost-effectiveness, safety & regulatory requirements

sunhux used Ask the Experts™
I'm exploring the use of drones to do delivery (for items that weigh up to 20kg
ie about 44 lbs) of dimensions up to 2ft long x 2ft wide x 10 inches thick.  

Once local authority approves it, thought of sourcing/purchasing some of these
drones but will need to look into the cost effectiveness (ie its  gasoline/petrol
costs, maintenance/repair) or is there any that uses rechargeable powerbanks?

Has Amazon or any country done it & what's the safety & regulatory requirements?
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On reading some of the pilots/tests done in my country by the aviation
authority, Airbus & local university, looks like it requires designated
takeoff/landing platforms & recipients had to go to collection stations
to collect the packages.

i was hoping that the drones could fly right to the doorsteps of
recipients : is this being done in the USA or anywhere?
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

Amazon claimed they could do it, but no more has been heard from them.  I suspect that this has something to do with the fact that the FAA did not look kindly on their request for drone package delivery.


"More than four years later, the thought of Amazon drones landing at your doorstep is still a lot more science fiction than reality, as it was left off the first round of an official government register advancing a pilot program."  I guess they figured "We're Amazon, they'll automatically approve us."  Well, it didn't happen.

Personally, I don't think it's practical.  44 pounds is an enormous load for a drone, which means a gasoline engine, and such a drone would be very noisy.  It can't fly close enough to a house to put a package on a porch or next to a garage, so the package is left out in the open to invite thieves.

A big, expensive looking drone is itself a flying temptation to theft ... not only of the package but the drone itself.  All it takes is a blanket over the rotors, yank off the battery connection, smash the GPS receiver and goodbye $2500 drone.  It wouldn't take too many drones stolen to put a company out of business, and it would be "interesting" to try to find an insurance company that would cover such a possibility.
I suspect it would only make sense for VERY niche and time critical deliveries. I have seen police here in Perth block roads and stop traffic to get human organs from a  dead doner to a patient as quickly as possible; perhaps that sort of thing could be viable.

Getting hold of a book you really want to read would just be absurdly expensive.
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Top Expert 2014

Zipline fly blood and medical supplies by drone but that's a special case as it's in Rwanda where the roads are often impassible. To be affordable the system would have to be autonomous which precludes deliveries to anywhere but specialised landing sites such as DHL's trial sites in Germany.

If the package is 20Kg and it falls on my head I want the pilot to die as well as me, then he'll be careful not to crash.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

If the package is 20Kg and it falls on my head I want the pilot to die as well as me, then he'll be careful not to crash.

Seems do-able within the current (AC 50/60 Hz, snicker snicker) technology!


Putting aside the weight (possibly many items can be just 5 pounds) & the
items are well-padded (with very soft sponges in case it falls on people),
is the energy & maintenance cost of running a drone fleet viable at all
(say compared to driving a motorcycle to do deliveries)?

Cars are expensive here locally : something like multiply by 5 from the
cost of manufacturer but motorbikes are a lot cheaper (in terms of
purchase price & running cost)
Top Expert 2014
To hire a camera drone it's about £25 per day, a camera drone with pilot is £225 so that gives £200 per day for the pilot. Pizza delivery driver gets about £40 per day and has to provide his own moped. To hire a drone that lifts more than a survey camera will be more expensive but I suspect the pilots still charge the same for their time.

So you can employ five moped riders at the same cost as one drone pilot meaning you can deliver 5 times as many parcels using mopeds as you can using drones. It's only going to be feasible  for niche markets like the Westray to Papa Westray flight. (Mopeds don't float so a drone delivery makes sense for that route (except it takes passengers) and there's nobody to drop the box on.

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