Gartner drone delivery forecast 2020 2026

Gartner predicts a million delivery drones by 2026 — with one big caveat

More than a million drones could be making retail deliveries by 2026, according to new analysis from Gartner.

That would be a nearly 5,000% increase, up from about 20,000 delivery drones available for flight today.

A May 2020 from Gartner highlighted how coronavirus has accelerated the use of delivery drones in a humanitarian effort to beat the crisis, pointing to companies like Zipline that are using contactless drone delivery to transport COVID-19 test samples in remote locations across five African countries. UPS, in a partnership with drone startup DroneUp, is testing how drones can aid hospitals through delivery.

That report predicted that  in 2026, more than one million drones will be carrying out retail deliveries.

Retail deliveries are being carried out in the U.S., largely in light of coronavirus. In the first two weeks of April 2020, Alphabet’s drone delivery company Wing doubled the amount of drone deliveries made in the U.S. Wing operates a drone delivery service in Virginia as part of the FAA’s  Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. They were making deliveries with Fedex and Walgreens, and since coronavirus augmented its delivery items to include household essentials like pasta or baby food.

But here’s the kicker: Gartner does not expect routine, large-scale autonomous drone flights to be feasible before 2025 due to legislation.

“The regulatory framework is one of the main obstacles to the mass deployment of delivery drones,” according to the report. “Gartner does not expect routine, large-scale autonomous drone flights to be feasible before 2025.”

Gartner’s report pointed to the rollout of drone-specific air traffic control systems called unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems as a factor in the 2025 timeline. Though UTM systems have been implemented in varying degrees in other countries, like Norway, federal UTM systems in the U.S. are still in the test phase. And while the FAA is gradually enabling UTM features on a small scale, Gartner expects full implementation to take several years.

And Gartner’s report doesn’t even go into public opinion.

42% of Americans do not think drone delivery is a good idea, according to a study commissioned by The Hawthorn Group asking Americans questions around whether they view drones unfavorably or favorably and whether they expect drones to actually begin home deliveries on a significant scale.

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