Are Americans too optimistic about drone delivery

Are Americans too optimistic about drone delivery? One survey suggests it

Americans are incredibly optimistic about drone delivery — and in particular how quickly we’ll have it.

A survey of more than 1,000 American adults conducted in May 2022  found that a solid majority of Americans (58%) favor the idea of drone deliveries. Perhaps even more interestingly is that 64% of Americans think drones are becoming an option for home delivery now or will be in the near future. 

And that definition of “near future” suggests Americans might be a bit too optimistic about drone delivery.

The 64% of survey respondents who said they see drones becoming an option for home delivery were then asked to give an approximate timeframe of when they think drone delivery will arrive. Relative to the percent of all survey respondents, here’s the timeframes they predicted, broken down by % who answered it: 

  • 32% think drone delivery is possible now or within the next 1 to 2 years. 
  • 18% say within 3 to 4 years.
  • 14% say within 5 to 10 years.

That’s all according to the 2022 “Consumer Attitudes on Drone Delivery” report from Auterion, an open source drone software company. The survey itself was conducted via Los Angeles-based market research firm Propeller Insights, and included respondents from 1,022 adults distributed across all age groups, genders and parts of the country.

Courtesy of Auterion

When will we actually get drone delivery?

So are those 32% who think drone delivery is possible now or within the next 1 to 2 years right? Likely no. While there certainly are some Americans receiving drone deliveries now, it’s super limited. A few major companies including Wing (sister company of Google) and Flytrex are running drone deliveries of food products to actual customers in non-planned operations, the deliveries are still contained to small, controlled areas that have received approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration and are still highly monitored.

Among the items some lucky Americans are already receiving: In a few cities in North Carolina you can receive food mostly from fast food joints — including Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Starbucks through deliveries operated by Flytrex. Flytrex also recently launched in Granbury, Texas, just outside of Dallas-Fort Worth to deliver menu items from Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy. That’s not far from where Wing conducts drone deliveries in Frisco, Texas. Another smaller drone delivery player, Manna, also announced that it was planning to expand to the U.S., though did not specify exactly where.

While delightful for the residents of those areas, drone delivery is still far out for the vast majority of Americans.

Many of the holdups lately have to do with nailing down regulation. Luckily, significant progress has been made. Among the hottest phrases in drone delivery right now is Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), indicating drone flights where the aircraft goes farther than what the operator can see, which is crucial to drone delivery. Major progress was made in March 2022 when the Federal Aviation Administration’s BVLOS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) final report published. That report came up with ideas including a possible Part 108 certification, guidance around aircraft right of way and more.

And a summer 2022 BVLOS meeting continued that progress, providing opportunities for the public to provide comments on that report.

Then again, for all the overly-optimistic folk, there are pessimists out there, too. The survey also found that 20% of Americans think the general public or governments will not approve of large-scale drone adoption for delivery. Alas, it does seem like the FAA is pretty onboard with drone delivery, proving folks wrong. Even former FAA Administrator Steve Dickson once threw major shade at his own agency, calling BVLOS progress too slow to accommodate a future of drone delivery.

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