Giant delivery drones are coming, but at what cost?

Giant delivery drones are coming, but at what cost?

– When you think of a drone,
you probably think of this. (motor buzzing) There’s a new generation of drones that are being built to
fly longer distances, at jet liner elevations,
while carrying huge payloads. And these cargo carrying drones could be coming to an air space near you. (gentle music) Cargo drones could potentially
upend the logistics industry, making deliveries that
are safe, and efficient, and environmentally sustainable, but they can also be a
regulatory nightmare. There’s a reason that giant
companies like Google, and Amazon, and UPS are
pushing ahead with their plans to fill the skies with cargo
carrying drones, money. Morgan Stanley estimates that
autonomous urban aircraft could eventually become a
1.5 trillion dollar industry, by 2040, and that includes everything from vertical takeoff
and landing the aircraft, flying cars, military UAVs,
and yes, delivery drones. Now there are a whole
bunch of delivery drones that are being tested today. But what if you wanna receive
something that’s heavier than an Uber Eats order? Before they can rake in all that cash, drone operators are out to prove that these devices can
deliver a social good, and that’s why so many pilot programs are focused on delivering medicine. Matternet is working with
UPS to deliver blood samples to hospitals in North Carolina. Zipline is flying in medical supplies to remote locations in Rwanda. Swoop Aero is dispensing
vaccines and other medication to tiny islands in the Pacific. All those drones exist today, but what about the ones that
are still under development, the heavy lifters. Let’s call them cargo
drones, drones that are built to fly higher and further
than anything available today, all while carrying really heavy loads. So Sabrewing is working on a prototype that can achieve speeds
of up to 180 knots, and a cruising altitude
as high as 22,000 feet. It’s called Rhaegal, which yes, is one of the dragons
from Game of Thrones. (dragon roaring) Another is called
Nautilus, and it’s working on a 30 foot prototype
that’s about the size and weight of a military predator drone. It’ll be capable of
transporting 700 pounds of cargo a distance of 2500 nautical miles. The company is also
working on a larger scale two ton freighter about
the size of a Boeing 777. (gentle music) Both companies are using
measurements associated with boats because they are being designed to take off and land in the water, and that’s because they probably won’t get the regulatory approval
to fly over populated areas. Now, speaking of Boeing,
the aerospace giant is working on its own heavy duty drone capable of carrying
payloads of 500 pounds. But what kind of work goes
into building a cargo drone? To find out, we visited
the offices of Elroy Air, in San Francisco, to see that company’s autonomous
volt drones for ourselves. Elroy’s CEO, Dave Merrill
talked about the challenge of building an aircraft capable of carrying this kind of weight. – At this scale, there’s a lot
more modeling that goes in, a lot more aerodynamics that goes in. You need more capital, you
need specialized expertise, for testing each building block. So it’s really a different kind of effort than building a smaller drone system. – And Merrill said that while some companies
are retrofitting their drones for autonomous flight, Elroy is building its aircraft to be self flying from day one. They’re being built to
attach and drop cargo as well as take off and land
without any human interaction. – So the aircraft is able to
land, taxi to a cargo pod, pick it up, and then take off again, without needing a person
to come out and load or unload the system. And we did that to save time, so that the aircraft can
just stay always in motion, always being utilized. And they also are designed
for a much longer range. Most delivery drones, people are thinking about the last mile, we think about the last 100 miles. – Elroy envisions its system being used to deliver packages over medium distances, in rural areas, or between
distribution centers. – The benefit of vertical
takeoff and landing is that you have a lot more flexibility in where the system can operate from. So, it can take off and
land from an airport, or a helipad, but also it can
take off from a parking lot, or the rooftop of a parking garage, or even a field. – The company hopes to have
a fleet of autonomous drones in the air, making deliveries by 2020. – I don’t think it’s as
far away as we think, but I do think that companies are betting that some portion of automated flight are going to be moving stuff around that’s not just small packages. – This idea of using drones to move goods between giant warehouses,
is super interesting. But also, it raises some valid concerns about energy consumption. A 2018 study in the journal “Nature” found that electric drones
were way more efficient than trucks, and vans, and cars. – A drone can reduce
greenhouse gas emissions for package delivery in
most areas of the country by a decent amount, and in really low carbon
electricity grids, like out west, and in New York state, it can reduce it by half, or more. – And though the study found
that benefits may be reduced once the electricity used for recharging and warehousing was factored in, drones clearly have less
environmental impact than a one item delivery by car. Today, the big problem is regulation. The unresolved issues
include whether it is safe to allow drones to fly beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, or to operate at night,
or to fly over people. And to answer these
questions, the FAA created a pilot program to see how
a drone delivery system might look in real life. Wing and Uber are two of
the companies participating, but not Amazon, which is
instead testing its drones with a consortium of European
companies in Belgium. – The tech development
race for urban air mobility is going on right now. The technology, as it
advances, should think through how it’s going to meet
those certifications, and make it safe for everybody. – So whatever set of guidelines the FAA and the private sector come up with, could have huge implications,
not just for cargo drones, but also maybe for the way that we get around in
cities in the future. Urban air mobility is
increasingly a hot pursuit among tech and aerospace companies. As ridiculous as it sounds,
the idea of flying cars is gaining serious traction. People are investing hundreds
of millions of dollars in drone companies, today,
because they believe that they will be more efficient, and better for the environment
than the current system. And that’s making people really nervous. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that 11% of
Americans support drones, while 34% favor some limits on them. But 54% disapprove of drones
flying near residential areas, and they site privacy and
noise as their top concerns. If developers can address these concerns, and build out a network of delivery drones that are quiet, safe and efficient, well, then the sky’s the limit. Like I’m just thinking if I can get a bed, a new bed, delivered to
my apartment, via drone, I mean, it might make
my neighbors nervous, but that could be amazing.


  1. The Verge says:

    How would you feel about cargo drones flying through your neighborhood?

  2. OwenRULESSS says:

    Noise pollution isn’t an afterthought on this topic but it feels like one in this vid

  3. Nate Chance says:

    They were talking about drones 5 years ago, and nothing happened. Probably not this time either. I’m not pessimistic, but this is a little much

  4. Nate Chance says:

    Oh my god!!! Saber wing, BAHAHAAHAHA, I’ve met the owners, it’s a freaking joke!

  5. Hansana Abhayapala says:

    Jokes on him, theres already delivery drones whizzing above my head

  6. Henry Chan says:

    Did he seriously just say Boeing seven seventy seven

  7. fuck google says:

    So technically it could fly me to Hawaii for free?

  8. Hector Martinez says:

    terrorist are salavating at the idea, fly it in and Boom!

  9. scikick says:

    But what about the last feet delivery? I'll still have to carry the bed upstairs into my room. 🙁

  10. Harrison Babington says:

    What about jobs people with family's that need Money

  11. Brandon Lee Sanders says:

    Yeah this sounds all good but let's be real…
    Drones aren't going to be doing individual home deliveries. There will official local Drop Off & Pick Up locations similar to a post offices that drones will deliver packages to. You'll receive a text notification that your package has arrived. This is the future of this industry. Just watch….

  12. Eln says:

    2:08 A 2 ton plane the size of a Boeing 777. Really? You didn't catch that mistake?

  13. Rob N says:

    Don't worry, we wont use our drones to collect data about you. We won't sell that data for financial gain. We promise!!! We are just monitoring the performance of the system. The data is only being used to improve our systems. No personal data is even being collected. It's just meta data. We only track all of your interactions with our service. We just want to provide a better customer experience. It's not personal data. It's meta data. Like your entire purchase history. All your website interactions. All your clicks. All your comments. All of your physical locations. The time you spent there. All of your decisions will be monitored and analyzed. It's just metadata it's not personal information. We don't keep any information. It's only temporally stored to improve customer experience of course. We won't use this information against you. We Promise!

  14. Sven says:

    by 2040 we'll all be dead from famine anyway

  15. ýəəţüş řəəťûş ĐƏƏŁƏŢÜŞ says:

    but at what cost?

  16. Eric Jones says:

    2017 Study as a reference? sUAS technology has advanced substantially since 2017. I imagine the study was also more in line with recreational sUAS's. Seriously though, what we had even just a couple years ago has been surpassed.. the capability is there.. the biggest issue continues to be powering these aircraft. I'm not even concerned about airspace issues — they're generally much smaller than the average aircraft.

  17. Big Mac says:

    That will be a new sport. Shooting them out of the sky


    I'm get my shotgun ready

  19. flobie1kenobi says:

    All units he stated are what are used in American aviation standard today. You all need to open your boxed in minds and shut the hole attached to it. No wonder drones aren't making more headway. Everyone working on them know nothing about aviation…

  20. 5674 inCincy says:

    there goes the peaceful quiet of the skies…noise will be all encompassing

  21. DarkStar says:

    To all those complaining about not using SI: Imperial units are the standard units used in aviation

  22. pkminime says:

    Also check out ‘The Black Swan’ from Dronamics, great project

  23. keagan says:

    We have plans tho. Just use the drones for the last few miles for delivery

  24. chubscub says:

    Just remember you have been scare mongered into hating hobby drones and hobby rc planes so that the skies below 400 feet can be cleared so commercial drones can fly without hindrance.

  25. Butcher the Silence says:

    doomsday questions by lefty’s; ‘BUT at what cost??’ Since when do Socialists care about cost?

  26. D Jaquith says:

    People need to look at the environmental impact of mining the raw materials for making the batteries.

  27. Chris Klugh says:

    I don't think this is going to be part of the rosy future we all hope to enjoy.

  28. Spencer Tyler says:

    dead dragon.

  29. Songbird says:

    “A 2 ton freighter the size of a Boeing 777”

    Triple 7s weigh ~387 tons so what happened here?

  30. pulchrat says:

    Citing lowered carbon output is great for generating hype but at the end of the day it's money that speaks. As evidence: solar and wind aren't growing because they're green they're growing because they're cheaper. Until I hear about faster, cheaper, better service; I have to assume this is just another in a long list of silicon valley pipe dreams.

  31. metamorphmuses says:

    I don't have a problem with high-flying cargo drones traveling in or near existing crewed flight corridors. I don't think drones flying at lower altitudes flying over streets and highways present a problem either. As far as I'm concerned, drones are already as safe as or safer than vehicles operated by human beings, and can simply share the existing infrastructure with them.

  32. vRetroKarma says:


  33. Steffan Atherton says:

    how do you stop crime? people stealing them?

  34. The Virtual Scotsman says:

    There's a reason nobody's made a silent helicopter that can carry 200lbs

  35. Jake Hix says:

    That moment when every balcony becomes a delivery zone….. moving companies win.

  36. Christopher Scobie says:

    No way.. unsafe..

  37. Dimbat FPV says:

    The size of a B777 and 2 ton payload? Are you sure about those numbers? A traditional B777 with passengers onboard can still load 10 to 20 tons of cargo. The freighter version can load upto 100 tons of cargo.

  38. E VK says:

    If you shoot them down, can you keep the cargo? Like a prize.

  39. Dogan Ulusoy says:

    Fisrt thing first. Deliver pizza than the other goods . Hot pizza , not fanned high altitude ice cold pizza …

  40. Mattie Dumbrill says:

    I think the low carbon thing isn't amazing as if delivery trucks were electrified, it would have the same effect and would be much easier.

  41. La habitacion del atrapado says:

    Guys, you really should start using the metric system

  42. Gary Christenson says:

    Betcha gun owners are gonna have fun with those drones. They would probably make wonderful targets.

  43. Blitznstitch2 says:

    FAA is hurting advancement. I'd green light this and be like all companies go!

  44. Frank says:


  45. Austin Bartose says:

    They aren’t cleaner, and they are definitely not economical

  46. Sportsquirrel says:

    54% disapprove of drones, power lines, interstate roadway systems, electricity, indoor plumbing. Drones are the future. Might as well get used to it.

  47. Speakeasy says:

    all drones should have to be electric. anyone who thinks otherwise is dead wrong.

  48. bucketrobbert says:

    can it ring the bell and say thank you have a good day

  49. Stephen B says:

    Why can't we develop the cargo planes we have to be drones?

  50. rubydog 25 says:

    People who watch this because they like the verge
    People who watch this because they fly freestyle drones

  51. Someone Incognito says:

    Thanos snapped his fingers, but at what cost?

  52. weerobot says:

    Not so good if one Lands on your House…lol

  53. Andrew Micallef says:

    Comment analysis:

    5%: Topic-relevant concerns and discussions

    <1%: Comment analysis and trace elements

  54. TK42DAN says:

    When an article's title includes the words, "…but at what cost," but doesn't address the impact on jobs and the economy, I have to wonder. 🙂

    Also, every one of your videos should be in imperial and metric, and no fewer than 10 languages, including sign language and Klingon.

  55. Stambo says:

    This is the real reason hobbyists are being regulated out of the sky in so many countries.

  56. Mainer says:

    Drones are noisy! I have a Phantom4 that I don't fly anymore because it really distresses the wildlife in my area.

  57. Chris B says:

    Its not cost effective; There is no way google and or any other company is going to pump money into something unless it is going to make money. Remember Economics Brah The FFA will not going to clear anything of that nature. Also you have to think of people that will shoot them down if they enter someones property line.

  58. Mike Woodman says:

    Drones certainly are the future, but it's easy to predict some of the negative consequences. Just a matter of time before some of them fall out of the sky onto someone's head; or accidentally crashes into a building; or prematurely drops it payload into someone's swimming pool; or is captured by people running around with nets; or is hijacked by evil-doers and commanded to crash into some target or other; or interferes with commercial jet traffic; or… or… or… So I don't doubt that drones are here to stay, and in increasing numbers, but I'm darned if I can see how they are going to make the system safe and foolproof.

  59. csakamatsu says:

    Okay. There is another concern: birds and animals could attack drones, as birds hitting planes. Maritime traffic disturbing whales, dolphins … These are the future source of regulatory traffic.

  60. RoyYaBoi says:

    So what if I shoot one

  61. B u d d y says:


  62. Engineer Ahmed says:

    already Amazon & ebay has closed malls
    Ans : WE GOT TO ACCEPT HUMANS R MEANT TO ENJOY LIFE NOT TO DO JOBS ..machines r meant to do jobs….The companies must be taxed JOB CUT TAX equal to half employee salary per 1 employee productivity & be paid to people as 1000$ free money

  63. William David Wallace says:

    On long distance, high altitude cargo drones how does ATC work? Many drones may well not use an airport but traffic control is still likely to be a big issue. One does not want these drones coming down on people.

  64. 556 2nd says:

    Cool a whole new crime network can be made ….. Taken down delivery drones. Truth

  65. eddy current says:

    im going to steal one out of the sky and harvest its parts

  66. Fritz Studios says:

    Keep dreaming champ

  67. Ateisme says:

    Did the study, factor in new electric trucks vs drones?

  68. Arcgateway says:

    When first cars were introduced there was a person walking in front of a car with a bell because of some regulations. Same situation here.

  69. Ambient Cotton says:

    Dey took er jerbs!!

  70. MyLife says:

    Most likely, even the clever brains (of whatever nationality including Americans) working on innovative projects like these use metric internally. Why are you using imperial?

  71. EvolutionIsAFairytale says:

    Why don’t they just remote pilot 747’s?

  72. 1 wordhere 1wordthere says:

    Great commercial

  73. DADDY FROAKLIN says:

    At what cost?
    Are freedom

  74. Mr Corndog says:

    Our jobs

  75. Иван Возяков says:

    How many pounds of explosives can you put there? Hm?

    Hope it will be prohibited to use them anywhere close to the cities.

  76. GS_01-03 says:

    So excited for cargo drones tbh. Hopefully it’ll free up traffic a little.

  77. Raji Fredrick says:

    As long as they have their own runway stations not to direct customer per say, as well as solar panels

  78. G F says:

    Technology replacing Humans means technology destroying humans.

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