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What Kept Drone Deliveries from Taking Off in 2018 | Drone Delivery Year-in-Review and Predictions for 2019

amazon prime air

Again in 2013, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, was interviewed on 60 Minutes. One of many subjects of curiosity in the course of the dialog was when Amazon would start utilizing their new octocopters to make deliveries.

amazon prime air

amazon prime air

Photograph credit score: Amazon Prime Air

Bezos’ prediction? That by 2018, Amazon would have the ability to ship gadgets weighing as much as 5 kilos inside a 10-mile radius of an Amazon warehouse.

Nicely, 2018 simply got here and went, and Amazon isn’t fairly there but.

That being stated, we did see some actual progress made on the drone supply entrance right here in the U.S. in 2018, which got here in the type of the creation of the united statesIntegration Pilot Program (UAS IPP).

The united statesIPP is a federal program created to permit states to check to varied forms of drone flights which might be in any other case prohibited by the FAA’s Half 107 guidelines—operations corresponding to flying BVLOS, or flying over individuals.

A number of the pilot packages chosen for the united statesIPP shall be testing drone supply—Airbus, Matternet, Flytrex, Undertaking Wing, and Zipline have been amongst people who made the minimize—and we will hope to see constructive motion ahead on the drone supply entrance in 2019 because of their findings.

However past the united statesIPP, what was completed in 2018 relating to making drone deliveries a actuality?

On this submit we’ll check out how a lot progress was made for each business and medical drone supply in 2018, and then look ahead to what we’d anticipate to see in 2019.

Business Drone Delivery

2017 was the primary yr we actually began to see progress in business drone deliveries.

Most notably, Flytrex launched business drone deliveries in Iceland, and Undertaking Wing delivered burritos in Australia. Though each efforts have been restricted, they served as symbols of actual steps ahead being made.

That is all to say that, when it got here to drone supply, we entered 2018 filled with hope.

However sadly 2018 didn’t ship. Whereas we continued to see progress in phrases of testing and the announcement of latest supply packages final yr, when it got here to the implementation of latest business drone supply packages, issues simply didn’t transfer very far ahead.



Photograph credit score: Flytrex

Listed here are some 2018 highlights for business drone supply:

SF Categorical

In April, Chinese language firm SF Categorical, the second-largest courier in China, acquired the primary official allow from China’s Civil Aviation Authority to ship packages by drone.

This information first broke again in April of 2018. Based mostly on our analysis, it doesn’t look like SF Categorical has truly began conducting business drone deliveries since then.


In June, AirBus introduced plans to start utilizing drones in Singapore to check shore-to-ship deliveries.

Because the information broke, it doesn’t seem that precise drone supply operations have begun.


In September, Flytrex introduced that it will be making meals deliveries by drone in North Dakota.

Venture Wing

In December, Challenge Wing introduced that they might begin making drone deliveries in Finland in the spring of 2019.

As you’ll be able to see, though business drone supply was accredited for testing in a number of locations in 2018, the one information a few new business drone supply operation that was truly carried out was Flytrex’s meals supply program in North Dakota.

Medical Drone Delivery

Though business drone supply has proceeded in matches and begins, medical drone supply has been shifting ahead at a quick clip over the previous few years, with Zipline and Matternet main the pack.

One main cause medical drone supply has been capable of transfer ahead extra shortly than business drone supply is as a result of medical deliveries often happen in rural areas, the place there are much less considerations about collisions.

Let’s take a better take a look at what occurred on the medical supply entrance in 2018.


Zipline has been on the forefront of medical drone supply for some time now. A lot of their work is completed in Africa, the place they’ve developed techniques to move blood and different medical provides to distant areas.



Photograph credit score: Zipline

In 2018, Zipline had some key bulletins on the medical supply entrance:

  • In April, Zipline made the information for launch of the world’s “fastest delivery drone,” a fixed-wing autonomous drone that may fly 99 miles, go as much as 75 mph, carry about 4 kilos, and function in heavy winds, rain, and excessive altitudes.
  • In November, Zipline introduced plans to construct a drone supply plant in Rwanda, with the aim of increasing their medical deliveries to extra hospitals
  • In December, the federal government of Ghana signed a $12 million greenback cope with Zipline for the design, set up, and operation of UAVs for medical deliveries inside the nation.

Along with the above, in 2018 Zipline was chosen to take part in the united statesIntegration Pilot Program (UAS IPP).

[This program] is a vital first step in the direction of bringing Zipline’s lifesaving drone supply know-how to america.

– Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline


2018 was additionally an enormous yr for Matternet.

matternet-image (1)

matternet-image (1)

Photograph credit score: Matternet

They continued to increase their medical drone supply presence in Switzerland whereas additionally honing their know-how, and implementing one of many first autonomous supply networks there.

Along with their continued accomplishments in Switzerland, the place the corporate is predicated, Matternet was one of many corporations chosen for the united statesIPP, and has begun testing medical drone deliveries in partnership with the state of North Carolina.

Relying on the result of the pilot, Matternet might be on monitor to be one of many go-to corporations in terms of offering drones for medical supply options in the U.S. and elsewhere—with Zipline appearing as their stiffest competitors, in fact.

It’s necessary to notice that each Matternet and Zipline haven’t confined themselves solely to medical deliveries. Each corporations have taken steps to make use of the know-how they’ve already developed to cross over into business drone deliveries, and we will anticipate to see them as contenders in the business drone supply area in the approaching years.

Word: The business and medical drone supply corporations we’ve determined to incorporate right here usually are not meant to be exhaustive. There are different corporations concerned in drone deliveries, however these are those who we expect actually pushed issues ahead in 2018.

Waivers Granted in 2018 that Might Bode Nicely for Drone Delivery

On the waiver entrance, the information from 2018 that would immediately impression the viability of drone deliveries in the U.S. was concerning the noticeable uptick in BVLOS waivers granted by the FAA.



Photograph credit score: Avitas Techniques

So as for drone deliveries to grow to be an on a regular basis phenomenon, drones should be flown BVLOS, virtually undoubtedly with no direct Visible Observer. In 2018, the FAA granted a slew of BVLOS waivers, in addition to first-of-their-kind waivers that included BVLOS operations.

Listed here are just some, to offer you an concept:

The above are all corporations actively utilizing their waivers for the work they do (reminiscent of Xcel Power, who conducts common BVLOS inspections of their energy strains).

Once we take a look at drone supply corporations who acquired BVLOS waivers in 2018, however presumably aren’t utilizing them for something past testing simply but, we see some extra fascinating knowledge factors:

  • Zipline Worldwide (2 BVLOS waivers in 2018)
  • Matternet (1 BVLOS waiver in 2018)
  • Venture Wing (2 BVLOS waivers in 2018)

To place all of this in perspective, of the 29 BVLOS waivers the FAA has ever granted, 17 got out in 2018. Which is all to say that, so far as the BVLOS piece of drone deliveries goes, the FAA seems to be getting extra and extra open to these sorts of operations.

[Need to see all of the BVLOS waivers the FAA has granted? Go to this web page on the FAA’s web site and search “107.31”.]

Drone Delivery in 2019

Though all of those BVLOS waivers are a superb signal, we’re not holding our breath about once we’ll truly see Jeff Bezo’s 2013 imaginative and prescient grow to be a actuality right here in the U.S.

Why? Listed here are the primary three causes:

1. Technological challenges

Packaging will must be made uniform, with some type of uniform payload supply station, and we’ve got but to see viable prototypes available on the market that fulfill these features of the supply course of. Battery life can also be nonetheless a problem. As Frank Appel, the CEO of DHL’s father or mother firm, Deutsche Publish, has put it: “If you have to recharge them every other hour, then you need so many drones and you have to orchestrate that. So good luck with that.”

2. Regulatory challenges

Though we anticipate the outcomes of the united statesIntegration Pilot Program to be useful in nudging drone deliveries ahead, proper now it appears like a lot of the info the pilot packages collect will assist with medical drone deliveries to extra rural areas, and will not be so useful—no less than in the brief time period—for business drone deliveries. As well as, the persevering with progress of state and native drone laws will submit a problem to creating common drone deliveries in the U.S. a actuality.

three. Value

As Colin Snow of the Drone Analyst identified lately, the ROI for making deliveries by way of drone as an alternative of different strategies nonetheless appears shaky.



Photograph credit score: Amazon Prime Air

All of this being stated, drone deliveries are undoubtedly on the rise, and in 2019 we’re positive to see extra and extra deliveries being made by drone.

However the lingering query is about once we’ll truly see a drone fly as much as our door, ship a package deal, and fly away into the sky.

Whereas that day could also be far off, medical drone deliveries and particular situations of economic drone deliveries manufactured from sure items in sure areas—akin to Flytrex’s program in North Dakota—are positive to proceed rising.

What do you assume? Do you agree that day by day business drone deliveries are nonetheless a methods off (at the least right here in the U.S.), or do you assume we’ll see them coming quickly? Chime in on this thread in the UAV Coach group discussion board to share your ideas.

Zacc Dukowitz

Contributing Author

A author with skilled expertise in schooling know-how and digital advertising, Zacc Dukowitz is keen about reporting on the drone business at a time when UAVs may help us reside higher lives. Zacc additionally holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial artwork, and is a extensively revealed fiction author. Zacc has an MFA from the College of Florida and a BA from St. John’s School. Comply with @zaccdukowitz or take a look at to learn his work.