Would Delivery Drones Be All That Efficient? Depends Where You Live

WIRED | 2/13/2018 | Matt Simon
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If the idea of swarms of delivery drones dropping packages all over our cities started out as a joke, for some reason the punchline hasn’t landed yet. Amazon applied for a patent in 2015 for a command center, like a beehive, plopped into your city, which isn’t a worrying metaphor at all. Google has its own program in the works, which at least for the moment involves delivering burritos. Again, if this is a joke, it’s got a very long fuse.

Forget about the insane logistics of such a system for a moment, or if you’d even be keen on drones swarming your town. The big question is: Would this actually be a better, more efficient way to go about things than traditional delivery trucks? Without a real system in place, that’s tough to answer.

Today - Nature - Communications - Group - Researchers

But today in Nature Communications, a group of researchers have taken a shot at modeling the energy efficiency of delivery drones, and compared it to classical fleets of delivery trucks. Which comes out on top? It depends, basically—on a slew of factors that you probably haven’t begun to think about. But they’re the same ones companies and regulators will have to chew on as automated delivery becomes more plausible.

First off, different regions of the country employ different levels of renewable energy like solar, which means charging all those drones would release different amounts of carbon dioxide depending on where you live. So for this study, the researchers compared emissions impacts at both ends of the spectrum: in a very green state, California, and a very not green one, Missouri.

Results - Lead - Author - Josh - Stolaroff

“What we found were mixed results,” says lead author Josh Stolaroff, an environmental scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “There is a possibility drones can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy use, but you have to be careful...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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