Regulatory hurdles and local resistance have long delayed what many thought would be the swift revolution of logistics. Almost a decade from the day Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Amazon’s vision of drone deliveries, Drones are finally starting to gain momentum in the United States.
Some of the notable hurdles for the widespread adaptation of drone delivery were concerns over noise pollution by drones, and regulations stating that a human is required to monitor each drone’s entire flight either by sight or by a remote monitoring system. While not all hurdles have been overcome, the industry has found solutions to many of these concerns.
An example of this is the San Francisco-based Zipline company, which is now in a pilot program with Walmart. One of Walmart’s stores in Pest Ridge, Arkansas now offers drone delivery to any home within a 50-mile radius. The Zipline drone is a fixed wing design, making much less noise than a drone with helicopter style blades. It is 11-feet wide with a maximum delivery weight of four pounds. A mechanized assist for takeoff can accelerate a Zipline drone to 60 miles per hour in just one second. Once at the destination, the parcel floats to the ground using a parachute.
Another successful example is a drone maker named Flytrex, which has also partnered with Walmart. Flytrex’s drones can carry up to six pounds and have led to significant reductions in delivery times and transportation costs in their areas.
Amazon has been quietly working towards the development of a drone delivery fleet for years, and it is reported that the company is planning to begin commercial tests of its own drone delivery service in September of this year for the states of California and Texas. Deliveries would be up to five pounds.
Elsewhere, Wing, a unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has been undergoing commercial tests in Christiansburg, Virginia since 2019. The Wing being noteworthy for being made of carbon fiver and injection-molded foam; the drone weighing in at just 10 pounds.
Finally, Fedex Express is teaming up with California Bay area-based Elroy Roy Air. Elroy Air claims to be building the first end-to-end autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) cargo aircraft. Fedex will test Elroy Air’s autonomous air cargo system in its logistics operations.
The success and safety record of these early commercial tests has resulted in the FAA being faster to issue permissions for ever larger programs, paving the way for a much broader adaption of drone deliveries in the United States.
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