Is the US warming up to delivery drones?

Well… the results are in – and people do not hate drone deliveries as much as originally feared.

At least those polled in the US – the largest drone market in the world – don’t.

Yes, there was a section that voiced its concern about noise pollution making the sky unbearable; but most respondents seemed worried that a drone might get lost – and lose their delivery in the process – or the flight might disturb their package; or that they might not get a refund if something were to happen to the drone along the way.

Others were worried of losing their package to porch bandits, in the case that the drone delivered while nobody was home.

These were some of the responses that were revealed in a report released by open-source drone software company Auterion.

Titled Consumer Attitude on Drone Delivery, the report showed that package delivery remains popular in the US, with 64 percent of those polled confirming that they saw drones becoming a real option for package delivery in the future.

Drone deliveries are already live in parts of the US, like Dallas, Texas and Arkansas.

Credit is due to the pioneers of drone delivery in the US, like Wing and Zipline, who invested time and money into community awareness programmes where they engaged members of the public in communities where they were introducing such deliveries.

According to this report, it seems like those campaigns worked.

The survey polled more than 1,000 consumers across the US and found that 58 percent favour the idea of drone deliveries while 64 percent think drones are becoming an option for home delivery now or will be in the near future.

“With more than 80 percent reporting packages delivered to their homes on a regular basis, the survey finds that Americans are generally ready to integrate drone delivery into daily life,” Auterion said.

Of the 64 percent that expect drone deliveries to become the norm in the future, 32 percent think that will happen in the next one or two years, eighteen percent think it will take fours, while fourteen percent gave it ten years.

Among the 36 percent that doubted that drone deliveries will happen in their lifetime, 20 percent think it will be because public sentiment and government policies will just not allow for large-scale drone adoption for delivery. A further sixteen percent just preferred drone deliveries didn’t happen.

These doubts did not stop 58 percent of respondents confirming their support for drone deliveries, however – because they were curious to experience the unique experience of having their package delivered by a drone; and they would try out to determine if it worked for the lifestyle they lead.

The survey actually revealed that nearly half of Americans (47 percent) would make a purchase from a specific retailer due to the option of a drone delivery program. 

Perhaps the sight of a drone dropping an order is not so bad, after all…. Picture: Auterion

“Americans are ready for drones to deliver their packages, and retailers that adopt and scale drone delivery programs will find themselves ahead of the curve,” said Lorenz Meier, co-founder and CEO of Auterion. “Cargo is the first instance where most people will directly experience the power of air mobility and autonomous systems—where drones will become a tangible, everyday reality.

“Our support of common enterprise use cases in inspections, mapping, search and rescue and other areas led us organically to work with partners serving one of the world’s largest retailers. Backing this fleet technologically and its large-scale retail operations in urban environments marks a major step forward in scale for us and for the industry as a whole.”

With the majority of current deliveries in the US comprising groceries, clothing, household items, meals, medicine and baby food; over half of respondents (54 percent) said they were willing to consider delivery drones as the new “corner store” that would conveniently small packages and last-minute sundries.

“When it comes to the biggest concerns about drone deliveries, 43% of Americans fear the drone will break down and they won’t get their items, and 19% are distressed about not having human interaction with their delivery person,” said Auterion.

“Other concerns, with respondents choosing more than one option, include:

  • 39% – that the drone will deliver my items to the wrong address,
  • 38% – if something happens to the drone, I won’t get a refund,
  • 37% – that my items will get ruined by the travel,
  • 35% – that my items will be left unattended making stealing easier for porch bandits, and
  • 32% – that the sky will be cluttered with ugly/noisy technology.”

However, the company was quick to add that nearly all of these concerns were the same concerns people experience with any method of delivery and are not specific to any delivery means per ser. The delivery drone industry prides itself in highly trackable direct delivery, as it leverages air instead of ground, and is more capable of accurate delivery timing, which can reduce the amount of time packages are outside.

“Cargo drones are now able to understand the environment with precision, to communicate through control software in a common language, and to predict safe landing spots in real time for fast package delivery, as well as emergencies and other situations,” said Meier.

“While traffic is jammed and fuel prices are volatile, air space is massive and becoming more accessible. Reducing reliance on gas-powered delivery vehicles with tough, environmentally friendly cargo drones is ultimately a safer, more flexible and more cost-effective approach to delivery.”

And of course, it would not be a genuine report, would it, if there wasn’t anybody who voiced their wish to not bear the cost of delivery at all (59 percent said they would be more attracted to drone deliveries if they came free of charge)?

The highest add-on charges most respondents were willing to take was up to $10 (for 41 percent of those polled). Only eighteen percent said they would pay delivery charges over $10.

But the dynamics seemed to change if delivery time was factored – with 42 percent admitting that they would pay more money for a delivery service that brought their product within an hour.

And while a drone landing pad is not required, 44 percent of Americans interested in drone delivery were willing to go the extra mile, saying they are open to purchasing a permanent fixture landing pad to ensure delivery to a specific location on their lawn or property.

Auterion commissioned the survey, which was done on their behalf by Propeller Insights and polled 1,022 adults, gender-balanced and distributed across age groups from 18 to 65+, living in rural, suburban and city environments in the United States. Two-thirds of respondents lived in houses, with the remainder living in condos, apartments or townhouses.

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