http://www.greencarcongress.com/2018/02/20180216-llnl.htmlStudy finds drone-based delivery could reduce GHG emissions and energy use in the transportation sector, if deployed sensibly
New research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Carnegie Mellon University, SRI International and the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that drone-based delivery could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use in the transportation sector. .
Several companies are developing programs for package delivery using drones, including Amazon, Google, UPS and Deutsche Post DHL. . . .
The researchers set out to find if drone delivery is a promising idea for the environment or whether, like conventional overnight package delivery, it leads to much higher energy use and carbon emissions.
The researchers flew test campaigns with two commercial drones and developed an estimate of the energy needed to deliver a package in various scenarios. They also considered how battery technology and drone design will improve over time. Then, using life cycle assessment, they compared the drone scenarios with delivery by truck, van and passenger car. The technique accounts for upstream impacts, such as emissions from manufacturing the batteries or refining oil into diesel fuel.
The researchers found that the current practical range of multi-copter drones is about 4 kilometers, which means a new network of urban warehouses or waystations would be needed to support a drone delivery system. These warehouses, in turn, would take energy to run. Although drones consume less energy per package-mile than delivery trucks, the additional warehouse energy required and the longer distances traveled by drones per package greatly increase the life-cycle impacts.
Overall, the results are mixed, and the best choice depends on things such as the size of the drone, the weight of the package and the types of power plants on the regional electricity grid. Drones are favored in regions with relatively clean electricity, such as California. . . .
The researchers recommend that regulators and companies looking to get an environmental benefit from drones should consider the systemwide impacts, and focus their efforts on small packages, with larger packages being left for trucks and vans. . . .
Direct link to article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02411-5