Drones ship time financial savings to prospects, new income to companies – Drones Information

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One of the most obvious arguments in favor of drone delivery is that their speed and convenience save time and effort for consumers: the ability to have a cup of coffee or over-the-counter medication delivered in minutes as needed can reduce the occasional hassle of small parts procurement change necessities into a seamless part of everyday life.

This appeal can generate new revenue for businesses, especially if drone delivery allows them to deliver orders faster or reach customers they wouldn’t otherwise have. Shifting shipments from gas-powered vehicles to the road to electric vehicles in the air could ease traffic congestion and lower emissions.

There are only a handful of drone delivery services around the world, however, and they haven’t been in operation long enough to back up proponents’ predictions.

A new study of Virginia Tech’s economic impact is helping tie numbers together of hours saved, revenue generated, and tons of carbon diverted. A research team led by Sarah Lyon-Hill, a senior economic development specialist in the Office of Economic Development, and Kimberly Ellis, an associate professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, modeled various possibilities of a simulated drone delivery service affecting three representative US cities : Christiansburg, Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; and Austin, Texas.

Lyon-Hill and her team had previously studied the economic effects of drones at the state level and are currently studying their effects on the workforce. In this case study, they focused more on individual cities and broadened the scope to a wider range of interrelated impacts – consumers, businesses, the environment and vulnerable populations.

“We wanted to ask when the cases where the delivery of drones makes the most sense are the case.” Lyon-Hill said. “Like any other technology, it is not the solution to everything: there are some cases where it is very appropriate to use and other cases where it is not.” So where are these areas where it could fill in the gaps? ”

The inclusion of Christiansburg in the mix gave the team a good start: There is a drone delivery service in town that was launched last fall by Wing, an offshoot of Google’s parent company Alphabet. Wing, who funded the study, is a long-time partner of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), an FAA-designated drone testing facility. The Christiansburg delivery service began as part of Wing’s collaboration with MAAP as part of a federal drone integration program that brings drone companies together with local governments and other partners. Access to a city where drones are already being delivered gave the team valuable context for their study and educated them about their approach to all three metro areas.

Austin, Christiansburg, and Columbus vary in size and population density, but they’re all growing cities, with lots of single-family homes and suburbs separating groups of restaurants and shops from residential neighborhoods: the very kind of urban geography that drones could deliver in, making everyday errands dramatically easier .

Lyon-Hill and her team built models for each city, drawing on data on consumer habits and business performance, as well as dozens of interviews with business owners and government officials. The careful collection of data and sophisticated methodology resulted in a remarkably detailed study that, unlike most other work in the field, focused on how the delivery of drones could affect a community in the relatively short term.

Their models predicted consumer behavior in the first five years after launching a hypothetical drone delivery service and made estimates of how much time customers would save, how much additional revenue businesses could make, and how less traffic and carbon emissions could be.

They found that by the end of five years, drone shipments could reach about half of every city’s residents; Depending on their shopping habits, the service could save them anywhere from tens to hundreds of hours per year. Over the five-year period, retail stores saw sales increase between 50% and 165%. Restaurants would benefit even more with sales growth between 121 and 250%. (The biggest profits would be made by limited-service restaurants that are already doing a brisk delivery and takeaway business.) Exchanging car trips for drone deliveries could save up to 294 million miles of road traffic and 114,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year in a single underground Railway area.

When comparing the measurement data in the three cities, Austin usually has the edge – it is larger than Christiansburg and less densely populated than Columbus. These traits lead many people to live far away from the things they want to buy.

Lyon-Hill and Ellis also explored other, less obvious ways that drones could benefit communities. For example, in major cities like Columbus and Austin, the service could improve access to prescription drugs for around 20,000 people, with downstream implications for individual and public health.

“At the test site, we spend most of our time on the technical aspects of drone operations – how to make sure they’re safe, how to do them efficiently, and how to use all of the technology that is needed to support them,” said Mark Blanks. the director of MAAP. “It’s easy to get lost in these details. Seeing a study like this one that outlines the economic and social benefits of this technology for communities reminds us why we do the work we do.”

How these benefits will play out in a particular city will depend on numerous factors, according to Lyon-Hill, including the habits and preferences of residents, the needs of local restaurants and retailers, and whether there are pressure points in retail or access to drone supplies to help relieve.

“The question is, what impact do you really want to have?” She said. “In some subway areas, there are pockets where a high percentage of people do not have access to a vehicle. A service like delivery of drones at a reasonable price could be phenomenal help for lower income populations. That could be preventive health care; that could be nutritious food. ”

The case study was already in full swing when COVID-19 changed the way Americans shop and reinforced the case for drone delivery. When the stores in Christiansburg closed in mid-March, Wing orders rose and the company entered into partnerships with several new local dealers. If some of this increased demand survives after the pandemic subsides, which Lyon-Hill suspects, the benefits the team calculated based on pre-COVID assumptions will likely be even greater in a post-COVID world. “People got used to it,” she said. “There are companies that didn’t deliver before and now they are.”

Regardless of the extent to which drone delivery is taken over in a particular city, Lyon-Hill hopes the study will help articulate the potential benefits of a technology that is still largely theoretical in most places.

“I hope we can build a better bridge between drone companies and local governments,” said Lyon-Hill. “Studies like this can fuel that dialogue, encourage businesses and communities to work together so the technology is most effective for everyone.”

The Economic Development Bureau is a public relations and international affairs department.

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