Study Estimates Delivery Drones Could Avoid up to 294 Million Miles Per Year in Road Use and 114K Tons Per Year in CO2 Emissions for a Single US Metropolitan Area.
Economic impact study from Virginia Tech quantifies the short-term benefits of drone delivery within one to five years of introduction.
Made Public Date
01/26/2021

832

Blacksburg
Virginia
United States

701

Austin
Texas
United States

866

Columbus
Ohio
United States
Identifier
2021-01528
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Measuring the Effects of Drone Delivery in the United States

Summary Information

Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development (OED) Team, the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) studied the impact and benefits of drone delivery in three metropolitan communities, Christiansburg, VA; Austin, TX; and Columbus, OH.

The study examined drones that carry five pounds or less, travel at high speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, have a five-mile operating range, and can match or exceed existing delivery services for cost and convenience. Three types of potential beneficiaries of drone delivery were explored: consumers, local businesses and the broader community, including the environment.

The team built models for each city, drawing on data on consumer habits and business performance and dozens of interviews with business owners and government officials. The models projected consumer behavior over the first five years after the introduction of a hypothetical drone delivery service, generating estimates for how much time customers would save, how much additional revenue businesses could earn, and reductions in traffic and carbon emissions.

The study's findings are summarized in the table below.

Table: Benefits to Consumers, Businesses and the Community by Year Five
 

Lower density (Christiansburg, Virginia)

Medium density (Austin, Texas) Higher density (Columbus, Ohio)
Consumers
  • Serve 92,200 people in the service area, 50.7% of the total metropolitan population (across 2 commercial centers)
  • Recover $23M - $45.9M in time savings for consumers using drones
  • Support 3,380 people in the service area who lack access to a vehicle
  • Help 1,340 people with mobility challenges to obtain their prescription medication, with up to $1.3M-$59.3M in annual healthcare benefits
  • Serve 1,077,800 people in the service area, 53.9% of the total metropolitan population (across 7 commercial centers)
  • Recover $323.6M-$582.5M in time savings for consumers using drones
  • Support 39,000 people in the service areas who lack access to a vehicle
  • Help 20,000 people with mobility challenges to obtain their prescription medication, with up to $18.7M-$872M in annual healthcare benefits
  • Serve 1,000,300 people in the service area, 49.4% of the total metropolitan population (across 7 commercial centers)
  • Recover $219.8M-$403.8M in time savings for consumers using drones
  • Support 66,000 people in the service area who lack access to a vehicle
  • Help 22,000 people with mobility challenges to obtain their prescription medication, with up to $20.6M-$959M in annual healthcare benefits
Businesses
  • Generate $25K-$73K per year in additional sales for participating retail businesses
  • Generate $38K-$71K per year in additional sales for participating full-service restaurants
  • Generate $94K-$174K per year in additional sales for participating limited-service restaurants
  • Generate $72K-$208K per year in additional sales for participating retail businesses
  • Generate $79K-$145K per year in additional sales for participating full-service restaurants
  • Generate $154K-$284K per year in additional sales for participating limited-service restaurants
  • Generate $34K-$97K per year in additional sales for participating retail businesses
  • Generate $54K-$99K per year in additional sales for participating full-service restaurants
  • Generate $95K-$176K per year in additional sales for participating limited-service restaurants
Communities
  • Reduce vehicle travel by 18.7M-30.5M miles per year in the service area, equivalent to 13.5-14.5% of all delivery and pickup cars
  • Save 7.2K-11.7K tons of CO2 per year in the service area, equivalent to 2.9K-4.7K acres of new forest
  • Prevent as many as 28-46 car crashes per year by reducing road travel

 

  • Reduce vehicle travel by 145.2M-294M miles per year in the service area, equivalent to 11.1-13.6% of all delivery and pickup cars
  • Save 56.1K-113.9K tons of CO2 per year in the service area, equivalent to 22.7K- 46K acres of new forest
  • Prevent as many as 287-580 car crashes per year by reducing road travel
  • Reduce vehicle travel by 95.8M-183.2M miles per year in the service area, equivalent to 9.4-10.7% of all delivery and pickup cars
  • Save 36.5K-69.9K tons of CO2 per year in the service area, equivalent to 14.6K-27.9K acres of new forest
  • Prevent as many as 244-466 car crashes per year by reducing road travel