It all started when Toni, one of our staffers working on our flying drone workshop, asked me a simple question. She asked, “Since I live in an apartment complex, if I order something to be delivered by drone, where would they leave the package?”
This naturally led to a longer conversation and we instantly ticked off around a dozen other problems that will need to be overcome before we can expect drone delivery to become a viable option.
As a futurist, I’ve often gotten caught up in understanding what an emerging industry will eventually look like, but tend to gloss over the labyrinth of issues that will invariably plague the early stage pioneers willing to plow through the messy early years and take on all the risks.
Naturally there are many areas where flying drones could instantly be put to use, but when it comes to having a company like Amazon offer product delivery throughout its system, these simple flying machines suddenly take on “workhorse” status requiring levels of durability, automation, and system-building that are currently missing inside most conversations.
For example, early stage drone delivery will require a pilot for every package, making it an expensive option. Not only will pilots need to navigate their way to the destination, they’ll need to handle the empty return flight back as well. Eventually this will be automated, but it’s not a simple task.
Since electric drones have very limited battery life and range, delivery drones will most likely be fueled with gas or some other petrochemical. Gas powered drones have issues with noise and pollution that will cause many communities to start restricting their use.
With limited range and capacity, only a select few items will be eligible for this kind of delivery. When it comes to delivering food, companies will need to carefully monitor portion sizes because weight will become an increasingly important variable.
After considering many of these current deficiencies, I thought it might be helpful to begin listing some of the key technical, system, and regulatory challenges that lie ahead. At the same time, every problem creates an opportunity, and the sooner our emerging drone entrepreneurs learn how to capitalize on these problems, the sooner we’ll see this industry take off like many of us are imagining.
With that in mind, here are 37 near-term issues that will need to be solved.