Before we discuss the legalities, hurdles, drawbacks, technicalities, and other issues facing the commercial drone concept, let us first take stock of its advantages and the different tasks that drones can be expected to perform. Here is a list of all the advantages of the drone concept in various sectors:
* Agriculture: Drones can be used in this sector for detecting crop-damaging insects and deploying them for accurate pesticide application, instead of spraying an entire field which results in pesticides being applied even where it is not required. This will drastically reduce the quantity of pesticides thereby cutting down costs.
* Security: Drones are already in use by the military for monitoring borders and illegal crossovers, for tracking and apprehending criminals, fugitives and terrorists. It can be deployed by educational institutions to keep an eye on campuses for suspect activities and potential threats and send distress signals in real time to school administrators and law enforcement agencies.
* Search and Rescue Mission: In times of natural disasters like floods, fires, and earthquakes the drone can be very handy in locating people and rescuing them by providing information to rescue teams, day or night. It can be equipped with infrared sensors to locate people in total darkness by their heat signatures.
* Land Surveying: Site surveys can be conducted by drones with greater precision and in less time. It can cover hundreds of acres, take pictures and video, and map elevation changes with state of the art sensors mounted on it. It has the ability to locate water and water flow patterns, detect the presence of different minerals and resources.
* Real Estate: It has the potential to save time and money for listing agents of residential properties by capturing video footages of large properties, and covering areas difficult to access on foot.
* Inspections: It can inspect oil pipelines in remote areas for damages and sabotage. It can be deployed by wind energy engineers to run inspections on wind turbines and related props eliminating the need of heavy lifting equipment and risk to human lives.
* Wedding & Special Events: Aerial photographs of weddings and events like concerts and sporting events.
* Insurance Companies: Insurance companies can send a drone to survey a car accident site, record and report house damages, and take both videos and stills of the scene of the accident or the home damage scene. Claims can be processed much faster this way.
* Special Deliveries: Technology giant Google has given a glimpse of their custom-built drones that have the capability of vertical take- offs and landings and if the need arises, it can switch over to glider or plane mode enabling coverage of greater distances. This will help in the delivery of supplies to reach people in remote areas of the world in quick time.
E-commerce giant Amazon plans to use drones for same-day delivery of parcels/packages under a weight limitation, of course.
* Outdoor Games: Drones can be used to capture videos of games like Golfing, Baseball, Soccer and more. This will not only provide spectacular views of the games to TV audiences but also help coaches and pros to improve their game and strategies.
* Pizzerias: Drones can be used for delivering pizzas to your doorstep. Although some companies have delved into it, it’s not yet a roaring success because of certain legal and logistics issues.
According to one report, Anna Tauzin, senior marketing manager for innovation and entrepreneurial services for the National Restaurant Association said, “It’s definitely a future that will happen, but as far as when and who’s going to be the frontrunner, it really remains to be seen, “
The Domino’s Pizza Enterprises in New Zealand has got together with a Nevada-based drone manufacturer Flirtey last August to run tests on a pizza delivery system.
The first test was conducted on a rainy day in August. They were successful in sending pizza from a store to an airfield. However, future tests will be about “store to home delivery” according to Matt Sweeny, CEO of Flirtey.
“New Zealand has the most liberal commercial drone regulations, about one to two years ahead of the U.S.,” said Sweeny. After New Zealand, The Domino’s and Flirtey team plan to implement similar delivery systems in the Netherlands, Japan , and Australia. “As the drone is hovering outside your house, you step outside, push a button, receive the package, and you’re good to go” said the CEO of Flirtey.
As far as the drone delivery business in the U.S. is concerned, the commercial drone laws are a bit more stringent as compared to some other countries. There are speculations that a drone delivery system in the United States may take another couple of years to become a reality.
More than the legislative restrictions the biggest challenge to the commercial drone delivery projects under development by giants like Google, Amazon, and few others would be technology challenges.
While there are many other startups working on the technology, one among them that stands out is Skydio, as their goal is to develop a practical technology. What they are researching and working on, is an independent navigation system. However, weight constraints are their main impediment and they need to find a way around it.
If the CEO of Flirtey is to be believed, the U.S., in all probability, will be delivering over-the-counter medicines and food from convenience stores to homes. Such deliveries to select homes in the United States could happen later this year.