Commercial drones could half CO2 emissions for freight delivery, report reveals

Commercial drones have the potential to halve CO2 emissions for freight deliveries, according to a new report by Cranfield University. 

The report, ‘UAVs: Unlocking positive transformation in the world’, compares the CO2 emissions emitted by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and small light commercial vehicles (LCVs). 

An LCV delivering 10 packages in eight hours over a 5km radius produced an emission rate of 3394 grams per 24 hours, while a UAV produced 1800, a 47 per cent reduction. 

The research from Cranfield identifies how UAVs can provide an opportunity for the logistics industry to reduce its environmental impact, while also leading to enhanced supply chains and business efficiencies. 

Over the next seven years, the commercial UAV market is projected to increase from $2.32 billion to $11.29 billion. 

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However, the report also recognises the long-term regulatory challenges in allowing UAVs to fly beyond visual line of sight and integrate with other air traffic. 

“Our new report with Cranfield University is packed with valuable insights that reinforce the positive and far-reaching impact of commercial UAVs on numerous aspects of society and business,” UAV and Unmanned Traffic Management senior director Anthony Spouncer said. 

“However, it’s also clear that unless autonomous vehicles and unmanned aviation are safely and securely integrated into managed airspace, their true potential cannot be unlocked on a commercial scale.”

Cranfield University’s Pro Vice Chancellor of the school of aerospace, transport and manufacturing Professor Dame Helen Atkinson added: “Commercial UAVs have the potential to transform our world in a range of safe and environmentally friendly ways. 

“This report is an important step in harnessing the power of UAVs and unlocking the opportunities they offer to advance air transport activities and services with fast and efficient delivery of goods.”




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