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October 2017
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Expansion of drone industry. What can go wrong?

Critical insight into the issue of drone delivery of products and circumstances that can block that project

Drones have been around for a while. The first usage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) was reported in 1849, when unmanned, hot-air balloons armed with bombs were sent by Austrians to raid Venice. Further development of drones during First and Second World War and Cold War was also primarily for military usage – they were supposed to drop bombs and spy on enemy territories as they were equipped with cameras. They were used during Yom Kippur War, Lebanon War of 1982 and Gulf War. Contemporarily, they are still and increasingly used in military, but recently something changed – they started to be used commercially as a support for retail technologies



In April 2015 Amazon was granted a patent for delivering inventory items using UAVs. Their goal is to get as close to teleportation delivery as possible. Consequently, they argue that drone delivery allows for providing customers with their purchases within half an hour, as long as purchasers house is within 10 miles range from Amazon warehouse. Moreover, drones will be able to exchange information between each other about issues like weather, possible obstacles or fastest routes to get to certain destinations.

Nowadays, very basic drones can be bought for as little as €30. They usually appear as quadrocopters, with four propellers and they can be remotely controlled either by designated gear or using computer software. They are a subject of interest for many researchers, that strive to achieve the best results in accuracy and smoothness of those machines’ movements. Drones not only can keep their position in the air, but also overcome obstacles on their way that makes them useful in interior environments. They can cooperate in fleet to carry objects or catch a ball in the net. The pace of development of that branch of industry may soon be pushed even further due to the fact that the biggest companies decided to put their interest into usage of UAVs in retail.

Another huge company that revealed interest in delivering their products by drones is Wal-Mart. The American company plans to use drones both to bring purchases to customers as well as use them inside stores to perform different tasks, to increase efficiency of the whole buying experience. Even though Amazon is holding a patent for “an unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV”) configured to autonomously deliver items of inventory to various destinations.”, Wal-Mart applied to Federal Aviation Administration for license to use drones for commercial purposes. Nevertheless, usage of drones for delivery has been a subject of discussion in number of big companies such as Deliveroo and startups such as Postmates.

Due to rapid development of industry, legal regulations concerning the issue are created all over the world.  Reports say that drone sales in US may exceed one million next year. That sparks discussion about responsibility of usage and desired level of accessibility of drones. Currently, according to US law, only recreational usage of drones can be performed without obtaining certain certificates. Any other purposes require Certificate of Authorization, which is a subject to Federal Aviation Administration decision. Moreover, the usage of UAVs on certain territories is a subject to state law. Similar regulations are developed not only by countries, but also international institutions like European Union. In majority of big cities any usage of drones in urban environment is restricted and requires permission of authorities.



Legal regulations are not the only thing that can harm the industry of drones. The perspective of UAVs in the society is very different from peaceful machines, that help you with everyday issues. Firstly they are considered war machines, which is not far from truth, as they are widely used in military nowadays. British government authorized a drone strike in Syria in August this year, that echoed widely in the media. Secondly, they are widely known for spying, as in most cases you can equip them with high definition cameras. Easy access and usage make it a cheap espial tool, which sparks obvious and justified opposition. Moreover, even though they are constantly improved, quadrocopters’ crashes are common among irresponsible and inexperienced users. On the internet you can easily find sites that keep track not only of military drones accidents, but also commercial ones.

Reasons outlined above create certain image of drones, which can have bad influence on the industry. Not only drone crashes can harm people, but also danger of spying is high. Therefore increase of drone traffic sparks reasonable discussion and emotions among society, in media and in politics. Mike Brady, CEO of AIG, international insurance company, recently announced that they are planning to introduce the insurance against drones in their offer. Increasing traffic creates risk and despite public debate it will most likely influence the political discussion concerning the law regulations for drone industry. Those aspects can be harmful for developing market of drone delivery.


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