The U.S. took one step closer to commercial drone aviation in January when the FAA granted...

The U.S. took one step closer to commercial drone aviation in January when the FAA granted approval to American Robotics to operate its drones without direct human supervision and without keeping the drone in sight. 

Photo courtesy of American Robotics Inc.

Urban air mobility (UAM) is looking to expand through last-mile drone deliveries of essential medicines and vaccines to rural destinations, according to map data provider UrbanFootprint.

Ground shipping to rural areas can be expensive. In remote areas, delivery companies like FedEx and UPS don’t deliver; they can’t earn a profit due to the high costs associated with long delivery distances, according to the article. And deliveries through the U.S. Postal Service can be unreliable and take a long time.

An analysis by Deutsche Bank found that last-mile delivery by drone is less expensive than conventional delivery companies. Premium ground shipping companies (like UPS and FedEx) cost $6 to $6.50 per delivery, mid-tier carriers cost $4 to $5 per delivery, USPS costs $2 per last-mile delivery, and robots/drones cost 5 cents per mile of delivery, according to the article.

Drones can provide a quicker and more reliable delivery method for medicines and vaccines to rural areas. Additionally, drones produce lower labor costs allowing delivery service providers to make these deliveries without losing a profit.

However, drone delivery to rural areas can create some technical issues. Currently, the average range for delivery drones is about 40 miles. Rural areas have few distribution centers and retail locations for drone landing. To deliver medical supplies, pharmacies in rural areas might need to be used as distribution centers where drones can land, according to the article.

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