In 2013 Amazon teased it’s drone delivery service known as Prime Air, which came with quite a bit of skepticism, largely due to the fact that during this time period the word drone was often associated with intense global affairs and world war. The hobbyist market had yet to take off, thus why when people heard the word drone it often came with negative associations. After the initial 2013 release, Amazon and it’s drone delivery service stayed relatively quiet, that is until early 2016 when they released their first video which detailed how the delivery service would work.
The worlds largest online retailer once again found itself submerged in global headlines, this time experiencing a more welcoming public response. The craze following the video which reached over 10's of millions of views through Facebook and YouTube garnered enough attention that major competitors began to come up with their own drone delivery services, Facebook and YouTube garnered enough attention that major competitors began to come up with their own drone delivery services, realizing the potential behind the emerging technology.
Everyone wants a piece of the pie
Following Amazon's successful first attempt, industry leading corporations soon began to roll out their own unique plans of incorporating drones within their business models. Walmart made a statement that revealed the company would soon be using drones within their 190 distribution centers, each serving around 100 to 150 individual stores spread throughout the United States. By using drones within their warehouses, Walmart can cut down on the amount of boxes they are using to store products as well as handle inventory at a much more efficient rate, saving them both time and money.
Plenty of skepticism has surrounded Amazon and their drone delivery services, leading some industry leaders to focus on other areas of potential growth. Apple recently partnered with drone maker DJI, a company who sells highly advanced products to drone enthusiasts. The partnership will ensure that DJI makes all of their future products Apple compatible, allowing users to control their highly advanced flying machines through a simple app which can be installed on any Apple device.
Amazon isn't the only leading delivery service hoping to gain new consumers through drone marketing campaigns. UPS began testing it's own drone services as early as 2016, and recently rolled out a more detailed plan on how the company plans to use drones in the near future. UPS plans to station drones on delivery trucks, which can fly away and deliver packages while the driver is making separate deliveries, slashing the standard delivery time in half!
Drones are also starting to play a meaningful role within the construction industry. In late 2017, construction firm Balfour Beauty completed their first trial of using drones to inspect building sites and bridges, which ended up saving the firm a total 8,000 euros compared to traditional practices. Expect drones to play an increasing role within this industry as 3D mapping is a heck of a lot easier with a drone in the sky.
Legal issues plaguing delivery services
US policy makers have made it extremely difficult for large corporations to roll out their drone delivery services. FedEx, Amazon, and UPS were all hoping to test the waters in 2018 by offering limited services within heavy populated areas, but current US policy is making that nearly impossible to achieve.
FAA's Part 107, a portion of federal law that covers drone policy includes a set of rules that place a severe set of limitations on the possibilities of expanding drone delivery services, including the following restrictions:
- The drone must be within visible sight of the pilot in control
- The drone cannot be operated from a moving vehicle
- The drone cannot be operated near public air spaces
- Fully autonomous drones cannot be used for commercial uses
- The pilot can only control one drone at a time
UPS plans for rolling out commercial drones involved a moving vehicle, while Amazon planned to use real time data that would help create an autonomous drone, both of which violate multiple restrictions within US drone policy. If corporations wish to use drones for delivery purposes, their going to have to get extremely creative if they wish to avoid legal consequences.
Making a difference
The nonprofit sector has quietly been experimenting with drones, with companies often time using them for creative projects that could not be carried out without the help of the advanced machines. From Africa to Europe, a handful of nonprofits are helping create a safer and healthier planet by creating world changing solutions powered through drones.
To combat the spread of Zika, WeRobotics developed a drone meant to fly sterile mosquitoes to high at-risk regions within Africa where male mosquitoes are overpopulating and spreading deadly diseases. The nonprofit released 100,000 sterile males per mission, releasing them during mating seasons. The creative strategy incorporating advanced drones heavily reduces mosquito population levels within affected areas, helping save lives and reduce the number of mosquito borne illnesses, which take over 750,000 lives per year.
Another nonprofit looking to make a global impact through drone implementation is Women on Waves, a dutch based nonprofit that empowers women by providing free, basic healthcare services among a variety of other assistance programs. The nonprofit is currently using drones to deliver birth control pills to underdeveloped countries across the globe. The campaign began in 2014 and is currently being used across Europe and Africa.
Drones are also playing a critical role within the fight to protect endangered species. National parks are beginning to use their advanced capabilities to better understand and track animals who are in danger of becoming extinct. UAV & Drone Solutions have partnered with a handful of popular African national parks to track animals while also keeping an eye out for poaches looking to make a serious profit. The partnership has helped assist in the arrest of multiple poaching groups, helping create a more stable and safe environment for the worlds most endangered species.
Professional spots.. and drones?
Perhaps where drones are making their biggest impact is within the world of professional sports. The Drone Racing League is the worlds first professional drone racing circuit, touring across the US and hosting events in major cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, and New York City. The league originated in 2015, and has experienced rapid growth in just a few short years. The league secured a broadcasting deal with ESPN in 2016, and early viewership ratings have been encouraging as the league reached an audience of over 30 million people in 2017 alone. The recent success has been so great the league plans to expand the circuit all the way to South East Asia for the 2018 season. The recent announcement of the global expansion helped lead the league to larger investments, as they recently struck a deal with FOX Sports, who will earn exclusive rights within their Asian broadcasting network.
DRL also recently announced their largest sponsorship to date, a 5 year, global deal with insurance brand Allianz. The insurance giant earned title rights, meaning the circuit, trophy, and league divisions will all include the name Allianz along with the company logo. The company was an early investor within the world of Esports, a professional gaming circuit experiencing a wealth of growth.
The world of virtual gaming, known as ESports went from an afterthought to a multi-billion dollar industry in just a few short years, with colleges now offering full-ride scholarships to the nations most elite gamer's. Many industry experts believe that drone racing is currently on pace to experience the same amount of success, largely because of the massive sponsors and broadcasting deals that are set in place for years to come.