Will we start receiving deliveries by drone sooner than we think?

  • On Friday 24 April 2020, the UK government announced that drones will be used to carry medical supplies from Hampshire to the Isle of Wight, confirming that a planned trial of the technology would be brought forward to begin next week.

    The Department for Transport said the drone would fly autonomously along a fixed route to be overseen by two safety pilots.

    However, the trial cannot start until the route has been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and permission is granted. 

    Robert Garbett, founder of the Drone Delivery Group and major drone advocate for drones welcomed this government move, adding that it “will open the way to accelerated growth of the UK drone industry.”

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    He continued: “In most people’s vision of drone delivery, there is an image of thousands of small air drones with parcels hanging from them being delivered to virtually every home in the UK... but this would be the least practical and least achievable application for air drones yet conceived.

    “Equally, although it may disappoint many people, the opportunity to see all our online orders delivered to our homes by drone any time soon is very slim indeed.

    “The issues associated with implementing such a concept for widespread household delivery are huge, for instance safety, security and the need for expensive infrastructure to make widespread use practical even in the medium term.

    “I believe that the future of air drones is far more exciting, and far closer than anyone thinks... but it does not look as the public or the media currently imagine it.”

    Robert Garbett is founder of Drone Major Group, chairman of the Drone Delivery Group & chairman of the British Standards Institution Drone Committee

    Robert believes the evolution of air drone deliveries to more likely start with bulk transportation of cargo and the delivery of items between locations where rapid delivery will save or significantly improve quality of life.

    Beyond this, he said “applications will undoubtedly widen to allow limited scenarios such as the delivery of items such as medication to seriously ill patients who have the right equipment installed to facilitate such a delivery, or parcels to local collection points for collection by residents in housing developments.”

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    Robert concluded: “In order to achieve this fast, all stakeholders in the drone industry must recognise the need for drone testing areas for applications to be developed safely and effectively, as reinforced by the UK Government’s initiative, and must work closely with regulators and standards makers to convey ‘lessons learned’ and to facilitate wider-scale adoption.

    “The way ahead, is that drones, whether on the earth's surface, in the air, underwater, or in space, drones will soon permeate virtually every aspect of our universe, much in the way that electricity did when it was discovered well over a century ago...to the benefit of society throughout the world.”

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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