Should we implement delivery drones?

Group 58

The online shopping industry is continually growing, with the UK’s e-commerce market becoming the third largest in the world. Accordingly, retail focus is shifting towards optimising product shipping, by reducing delivery cost and time. Drones are the next technological leap, carrying packages of 30kg at 54 km/h and have direct routes to customers. Drone delivery is feasible and can be extended to other industries, but like with any technological advancement, a debate is sparked around whether it is acceptable. An ethical examination reveals the improved delivery capabilities of drones and reduced environmental impact, may sacrifice security and invade privacy.

Angels in the Sky

Many opportunities are created with drone delivery. Adopting a duty ethics attitude towards drone deliveries, fuel consumption and potential carbon emissions can be reduced by replacing the need for delivery vans with electric drones. These could ideally be recharged at renewable sources. Also the volume of greenhouse gas emitted per package is estimated to be lower with drones. The duty ethics framework encourages delivery drones as they may limit harm to the environment, which is an action promoted by all countries as established in “The Paris agreement”. Moreover, this framework combats personal privacy concerns due to cameras being equipped on drones. CCTV operation and citizens recording videos in public is a socially accepted behaviour and is even condoned by law, hence duty ethics permits drones to record as well.

From a utilitarian regard, delivery drones can increase satisfaction for customers. They reduce delivery costs which has been steadily increasing with fuel prices, but electric drones are unaffected subsequently allowing savings to be transferred to customers. Drones also allow the lead time of deliveries to be reduced as traffic related inconveniences can be avoided, travelling through the air. The automated system could generate the shortest route to increase efficiency as well as accuracy, because drones are less likely than humans to make errors in delivering to the right recipient. This will decrease the number of irritated customers receiving the wrong package, and the combination of savings and shorter delivery times will increase customer gratification. These results are in line with utilitarianism along with the increased satisfaction of company shareholders resulting from increased customer approval.

The stated increase of customer contentment would be consistent with care ethics as companies have an expectation to maintain satisfaction in their relationship with consumers. However, an alternative relationship that could be examined is that of the predominantly web-based drone delivery companies, and other E-commerce companies. The cheaper and faster shipping attracts more consumers to shop online, prompting the growth of online retailers. From a care ethics regard, companies with large drone delivery services can have relationships with smaller independent businesses, allowing these retailers to reach a larger audience at affordable costs. From a virtue ethics regard, delivery drones are valuable as they enable access to remote locations. Rwanda implemented medicine and blood delivery infrastructures using drones, as other means of transport is impractical. Delivery drones could also decrease transportation times of blood and organ donations, which are time critical services, allowing for more successful transplants. Virtue ethics promotes benevolence and humanity, which is realised in both these benefits, as drones enable more lives to be saved.

Drone delivery service

Disturbance, Danger and Drones

There are drawbacks to consider with this new service. From a virtue ethics regard, drones could hurt animals such as birds and the surrounding ecosystems. The noise produced from a drone flying too close to a nest could drive adult birds away, leading to abandonment of eggs and chicks. Alternatively, animals could attack drones or incur accidental collisions leading to severe injuries caused by the blades. Virtue ethics states, humans should be compassionate towards animals and using drones does not benefit animals but is dangerous to their survival.

Equipping delivery drones with cameras for navigational purposes is problematic in duty ethics. Flying cameras over other people’s homes in considered intrusive by society as it is an invasion of their privacy. Duty ethics forbids this action by means of the reciprocity principal, stating one would choose to have their own privacy respected and must therefore respect others. Automated deliveries may also be prohibited in this framework. Certain items are understood to only be deliverable to certain individuals. Automation may allow deliveries of knifes and alcohol to children, which would be breaking norms established by society for safety purposes, and could lead to significant harm to children.

From a utilitarian regard, drones disturb air travel and can lead to temporary closures of airports. Delivery drones will enhance the irritations of travellers who have flights delayed, and the discomfort of passengers in aircrafts that have near misses with drones. Another complexity is potential damage to property as drones travel and arrive to customers. Authorities responsible for maintaining power lines, and cell towers etc. will have to repair damage and customers themselves if anything is destroyed during drone landings. Utilitarianism finds significantly more people are impacted from disastrous drone deliveries than benefited from successful ones. Also the level of increase in discomfort for delayed passengers or anyone with damaged property, is higher than the increase of comfort for the individual receiving deliveries faster. Extending the ethical framework to the freedom principal, the innovation is rejected, as delivery drones negatively affect these groups. Automation also displaces jobs in the delivery sector. These employees have a significant detriment to their standard of living. The government and other citizens have to support the unemployed through increased taxes. The varying levels of despair to many in the wider society eclipses the increased revenue of the delivery companies.

Security concerns are raised in care ethics, when considering automated drones may be hacked which contain information of customer addresses, and items ordered which could result in blackmail. Worse yet, criminals could use these intercepted drones with company logos to commit acts of terror, as they would be harder to detect. Care ethics states companies have a responsibility to these customers and the community they operate in, and should use the securer option of couriers, at the extra cost.

Initial Decision

The initial decision is for implementing delivery drones.

22 thoughts on “Should we implement delivery drones?

  1. This is a very factual, structured look into the ramifications, both positive and negative, of implementing delivery drones. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and learnt a fair bit.

  2. Article explores the relevant social, economical and ethical issues surrounding drone implementation very well. The concept is one to watch in the future for sure.

  3. Superbly written, and detailed ethical assessment conducted. Statements are well backed by relevant academic and professional literature. Personally, I believe air drones for delivery may be feasible, however, due to social views, implementation may be in the long term, and dependent on other technological debated topics such as driverless cars.

  4. An insightful, well-written article that thoroughly and holistically explores the ethical and environmental aspects to an upcoming technology. I definitely feel more informed about issues surrounding drones. The article serves as an important reminder, in an era of rapid technological growth, that we may get carried away with the potential of innovative products and must consider other factors prior to commercialisation.

  5. I personally believe that delivery drones are a great addition to society. Particularly given the advantages of reducing traffic and cutting down on the fuel costs. More importantly for the user, the fact that drones can deliver at convenient times prevents the issues arising of late/missed deliveries.

  6. The article is very informative and the pros and cons are well explained. This is definitely an idea that has the potential to become global but it still requires a lot of work in order for air as a transport network to be accepted. Especially since safety is such a big issue in today’s time and technological advances having no bounds, the free operating of drones could be met with scepticism.

  7. Really helpful article and mentions lots of aspects of using drones for delivery and it would be better if it includes the way of picking up items or for example if customer wants to return item. Also, I believe it is a good invention since it is environmentally friendly and uses renewable energy which would save lots of energy for other applications. However, it would be difficult for employees that work in delivery companies such as DHL to find other jobs which would make most of them lose their jobs. Hopefully there is a way helps to overcome these obstacles.

  8. I think from a utilitarian standpoint you should implement delivery drones as they will benefit society if used only by big cooperations. The privacy concern is the only valid one to stop the implementation. However, if used only by corporations this won’t be a concern.
    The concerns for animals one is ignored in all aspects of society; planes, cars toys, ships, electric lines. Thus it is not a valid point.

  9. Nowadays, technology plays an important role in people’s life. Some people think that technology give negative effects for social life. However, other people could give benefit for them. So many innovative ideas have their own ethical issues and these issues can be solved by further studies and analysis. My point of view is utilising delivery drones will ease people life whether for the customers, clients, our environment, and even other people as it will decrease the congestion.

  10. Fair argument. Both the positives and negatives are equally considerable. However I think that certain regulations could cover up for some of the negatives. For instance, limiting the age range of the utilizer of the service to more than the age of a child could better regulate and ascertain that adult products are only shipped to the appropriate destination.

  11. Very interesting topic. The article discuss the adv. and disadv. of delivery drones, it’s worth to think about what might be the proper way to use a drone in the future.

  12. Today, delivery drones are used for commercial purposes commonly, like Amazon and Domino’s Pizza are thinking about the idea of using drones for the delivery of their products. At the moment, while I’m concerning about the delivery cost, in order for a company to make a profit from drone deliveries, they would have to have deliveries that take less than an hour. The big question is if the people are willing to pay a major premium for such a service?

  13. The future of delivery drones looks very bright. it seems we are yet to see many developments into these drones. Probably many retailers will resort to these drones to satisfy their customers with quick deliveries. I guess the weight of the goods might affect the flight time negatively, unless they make them very strong. I think the DJI S1000+ is stable enough to deliver goods compared to other quadcopters.

  14. The development of delivery drones is actually good news for us customers. But the sad part is, that I don’t think they’ll be available in all the regions due to some restrictions in some countries. So flying from one region to another, I don’t think it will go that easy. I can’t wait to see some product being delivered by the Amazon Prime Air.

  15. Drone delivery systems should be encouraged by policy in some situations and discouraged in others. It is possible to roughly determine whether a set of conditions for a given city falls into the encourage or discourage categories by using low-cost analyses. The same analyses can be used to provide or clarify options for reducing adverse impacts while retaining benefits as well. Along those lines, it appears that there can be substantial benefits to many parameters of interest by implementing policies that promote the use of multiple drone centres to service large cities as opposed to a single, centralised centre.

  16. I love the way how each positive and negative impact of drone delivery has been mentioned here. One must need to understand that the current norm for industries is to move towards new tech in order to enhance consumer experiences. It also decreases costs incurred by the company, which is considered good if you are starting up a business.
    I believe that the pros do over weigh the cons at the moment right now. The problems described above are being actively tackled to reduce the chances of ill-treatment of the tech. Here are some of them:
    1) Drone produce less noise when in flight, so as to not cause any disruption in the natural ecosystem.
    2) Hackers are being called for regular hackathons to test the authenticity of the firewall system that the drone has.
    3) Drone cameras are being removed. Instead sensors are used to monitor the nearby surroundings and a GPS with a position tracker identifies the place to be landed. Consumers are notified that their product is going to be dispatched and hence they can place a unique marker outside their home (possibly a safe location) for the drone to land. Here is how the Beta testing looks like. First a text message is sent to the consumer that their package is ready to be shipped to the desired address. Then the drone is set to the coordinates of the apartment. Meanwhile the consumer has to place a marker where they want their package to be picked up from. Imagine if someone comes and picks up the marker and keeps it on another location, then the drone will return back to the warehouse. The drone first activates to the coordinates of the area, then once it reaches it area then it looks for the unique signal. If the unique signal is not in the coordinated area, the drone would leave.
    These were some of the findings I had to share. Hope these might propose a strong point how the cons are not that weighted at the moment.

  17. First of all, the article is very informative and interesting. Implementation of delivery drones will be great and very helpful. The advantages and disadvantages are totally equal. In my opinion, the idea has real problems like a privacy and need more studies. We can implement it, but under strict conditions and used by big reliable firms like Amazon.

  18. Very well written article! It’s a unique perspective, comparing both sides of the coin. The use of drones for purposes other than delivery of commercial products, such as to deliver medicines or supplies to far-off places or to a battlefield would be a good thing to see. I enjoyed reading this and is surely thought provoking. Well done!

  19. A very good topic, and a nice article discussing it too.

    I’m against delivery drones. To my mind, a lot of autonomous devices delivering packages goes against care ethics. When a company provides a customer with a good an essential aspect of the transaction is the transfer of said good from the supplier to the demander. Delivery drones may be prone to interception, someone with a large net could scoop drones out of the sky harvesting items that they may sell or keep, or discard. This ‘farming’ could result in increased costs to combat it and to offset the costs of replacement deliveries.

    The principle of ensuring the customer gets the product they’ve purchased is potentially at risk here.

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