If your image of the future of drone deliveries involves swarms of quadcopters pouring out of Amazon warehouses like flying monkeys leaving the Wicked Witch’s castle, you’ll be disappointed. They’re far more likely to be dispatched from trucks parked not too far from your house.
Anything else is simply too big a hassle. Companies like UPS and Amazon prize efficiency above all, and deploying a fleet of drones from a warehouse in the middle of nowhere wastes time. Making them fly all the way back wastes energy. And you still need trucks, because drones can’t schlep more than a few pounds. But if you put the drones in the truck and fling them at houses to cover the last mile or so, well, then you’re on to something. You’re saving the driver the trouble of parking the truck, getting out, finding the package, and hoofing it to the door. Think of it as a paperboy riding his bike down the street, tossing the newspaper onto each porch.
“A trial like this is important, because it’s not just a drone itself doing something, but all the support processes, and the people,” says Timothy Carone, a physicist and expert on automation at the University of Notre Dame. “As a test, it’s more realistic, because it’s looking at how it all integrates into the business.”
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