CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
April 24, 2019
Forward Thinking

Public opinion on drone delivery is mixed

A report by the U.S. Postal Service finds that older generations are less likely to be interested in receiving packages delivered by unmanned autonomous vehicles.

The idea of drone delivery has generated a flurry of attention and hype in the popular press and is a hot topic at logistics industry conferences and trade shows. But not everyone is thrilled with the idea. A recent report from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) shows that consumers are mixed about whether they want their parcels delivered by unmanned autonomous vehicles.

"Public Perception of Drone Delivery in the United States" is based on an online survey of 1,465 residents of the United States between the ages of 18 and 75 years old. It found that although 44 percent of Americans liked the idea of drone delivery, 34 percent did not, and 23 percent remained undecided.

Age, geography, and gender all seem to play a role in how open people are to the idea of drones. Not surprisingly, 65 percent of millennials like the idea of drone delivery, compared to 24 percent of baby boomers. Likewise, 51 percent of urban residents favor drones, versus 37 percent of residents of rural or remote areas. Additionally, males (52 percent) are more likely to approve of drones than females (35 percent).

The survey also suggests that the more consumers know about drone delivery, the more receptive to the idea they are. Only 24 percent of respondents who had not seen or heard anything about drone delivery liked the idea, whereas 75 percent of respondents who had seen and heard a lot about drone delivery liked the idea.

The biggest benefits of drone delivery, according to the survey participants, are faster delivery times and the ability to make emergency deliveries. However, less than a third (32 percent) of respondents were convinced that drone delivery would be safe, and 42 percent of respondents said their primary concern about drone delivery is that the machines could malfunction.

The report was commissioned to help the USPS assess whether to incorporate drones into its operation. Topics covered by the survey included the overall appeal of drone technology, its most and least interesting applications, whether the public believes claims about its potential benefits, the public's expected time frame for implementation, potential concerns, and how the public would view drone delivery if it were offered by various players in the logistics and technology fields.

The report suggested that it may be too soon for any company or organization to offer drone delivery; the responses indicate that the public would view each company involved in the survey (Google, Amazon, UPS, FedEx, and the USPS) less positively if it started offering drone delivery today. However, the survey also found that being associated with drone delivery would make members of the public perceive the USPS as being more innovative than they do today.

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