Drone package delivery is a reality, albeit only in a few limited markets. However, once regulations permit, many companies are ready and awaiting large-scale operations. From medical prescriptions to fast food delivery, 2020 will likely see more and more delivery by drone, but it will take federal promulgation of final rules before the industry can officially take off.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does have final rules in the pipeline, but in the meantime, the FAA is permitting exemptions to existing rules to enable the first class of commercial drone deliveries in the delivery service industry. Currently, FAA regulations prevent drones from flying beyond visual line of sight, over people, or at night. However, last year, companies like Alphabet’s Wing and UPS Flight Forward were granted exemptions that permitted limited drone delivery operations. The hope is that the FAA will release final rules soon, opening new opportunities in this arena.
Drone delivery providers estimate that the use of drones for deliveries will cost less than traditional transportation, and, those savings combined with increased accessibility to products, will benefit businesses (and the economy) by increasing customer purchases. However, in addition to differences in logistical operations, payloads, size and scope (not to mention the lack of an unmanned aerial vehicles traffic management system), there is also concern with the ongoing public debate over noise, security and privacy concerns.
For now, companies will continue to operate under FAA exemptions and test delivery by drone at FAA-approved test sites across the U.S. We will continue to watch for the FAA’s final rules, which will allow more and more packages to hit the skies.