Drones could become an important part of the delivery supply chain. In early 2022, more than 2,000 commercial drone deliveries were occurring every day worldwide, and that number has only grown since. While this number is still small relative to the total number of commercial deliveries, it indicates that current activity involves more than just test-flights. Drone technology has the potential to meet a range of last-mile consumer use cases, such as prepared food, convenience products, and other small packages, as well as B2B needs, such as moving medical samples to labs.
As the industry steps out of its infancy, drones may become cost competitive at a direct operating cost level. In fact, under certain conditions—such as in regions with poor road infrastructure or when pooling deliveries does not make sense—drones may already be the most cost-effective mode of delivery. They are also environmentally friendly, with CO2 emissions typically lower than those of electric cars and vans making a single delivery, and significantly lower than those of gasoline-powered vehicles (exhibit). In the same spirit as our discussion on eliminating carbon emissions for commercial fleets, companies will be much more likely to reach their emissions goals if they do not have to deliver a one-pound burrito with a two-ton vehicle.