UAVs should replace delivery vans in a bid to reduce carbon missions, a new industry report has claimed.
A study from the Nature Communications analysing the environmental impact of small UAVs for delivery, taking all aspects of the application into account, including the warehouse processes as well as the flight, has identified that while unmanned vehicles consume less energy per package-km than delivery trucks, additional energy uses can reduce the energy saving.
Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, reports that the additional warehouse energy required and the longer distances travelled by drones per package greatly increase the life-cycle impacts.
While the journal acknowledges the effects of UAVs in delivery application, it found that in most cases examined, the impacts of package delivery by small drone are lower than ground-based delivery.
Report author, Joshuah Stolaroff, stated: “Truck transport is responsible for 24% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and comprises 23% of transportation energy use in the USA, hence changes to the industry are important to the environment and the energy system.
“While power grids are evolving, the scale of environmental benefits from charging drones with electricity depend on the life-cycle environmental characteristics of electricity, vehicle use, battery materials, and enabling infrastructure.”
The industry report, which tested velocity, UAV size and battery, concluded that many new warehouses or waystations would be required to support a drone-based delivery system.
“Drones are coming to the transportation sector, and stakeholders need to be prepared to encourage positive environmental outcomes during this transition. Understanding these issues can inform public and private decision makers facing energy and environmental choices in the infancy of the commercial drone age,” Stolaroff concluded.