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Drone Versus Truck: Environmental Impact Showdown

a drone with a package strapped to it

Recently, a team of researchers at the University of Washington set out to determine whether or not drones or delivery trucks were more energy efficient. They came into the study expecting that delivery trucks would be better for the environment than a fleet of drones.

It makes sense: getting an object airborne takes a lot of energy, so it's easy to assume drones would be a lot less energy efficient than trucks. After comparing carbon dioxide emissions from drone and truck deliveries in models of different real-life scenarios, the researchers found that drone deliveries are surprisingly the better choice in some situations.

The Right Circumstances

Drones are great for delivering lightweight packages, such as bottles of medicine or clothes. The benefits decrease as the size of the package goes up, since the drone has to use a lot more energy, and emit a lot more carbon dioxide to stay in the air.

That's where trucks are the better choice. Trucks can also take a lot of different items at once, which means they can make several stops in one trip.

So, they can deliver a chair to one person, and a pair of shoes to someone else who lives a street away without having to return to the central warehouse after each delivery, like drones do.

A likely future scenario might be a truck carrying a load of items to a central location, and drones fanning out from there to deliver individual items.

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