Drone freight transport is the future of the logistics sector, but the field needs urgent regulation, according to an expert from the Future-Proof Cities research school in Sweden.
Until recently, drones were used for surveillance, photography and entertainment, but now they can also be used to transport passengers and goods. “Drones have become bigger, faster and more powerful, so it’s time for policy makers to create regulations for sustainable transport with drones,” says Aishwarya Raghunatha, a PhD student at the University of Gävle.
Even in developed countries, drone delivery of goods has only started to be tested in recent years, and there are still a number of constraints slowing down the uptake of these devices. However, thanks to technological advances, the operating time and range of drones are constantly increasing and safety technologies are improving, so that drone freight transport will become more and more common.
Because drones use only airspace, they are faster and more flexible than traditional means of transport that rely on roads or water. As the technology improves and the constraints diminish, more and more companies are likely to switch to drone freight, so in the future we will see more and more drones in the air delivering our packages to our destinations.
Drone passenger transport is even more difficult to implement than drone freight transport, as it raises much more complex safety and legal issues. However, several companies and research groups are already developing prototypes and preparing to test potential applications, for example in urban transport.
Aishwarya Raghunatha believes that, with public investment, rescue and emergency drones capable of transporting people could become a reality in as little as five years. However, she is concerned that drones capable of transporting people and goods could be used by criminals in the future. Therefore, before these devices can take to the skies, the legal environment needs to be reviewed to protect people’s privacy and property, as well as natural ecosystems.
As the technology develops and safety issues are addressed, drone transport of goods and people is likely to become more popular in the future, but much work and development is still needed to make these devices part of our everyday lives.