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Shipment costs using drones for parcel delivery 2016-2020

The cost of drone parcel deliveries in North America is predicted to fall over the years to 2020, dropping to 0.03 U.S. dollars per parcel for deliveries using 125 U.S. dollar drones. For 500 dollar U.S. drones, the cost per delivery is expected to be 0.14 U.S. dollars per parcel.

Drone deliveries

Drone deliveries are where automated unmanned aerial vehicles are used to deliver packages directly to consumers and businesses. The potential benefits of drone deliveries is that they are faster, cheaper, and better able to access remote areas. Although multiple drone delivery trials have been run globally over the 2010’s, currently there is no large-scale adoption of drone deliveries in any national market. Consumers, though, seem open to the idea, and would be likely to choose drone deliveries if it lowered delivery times. However, as drone deliveries are automated, there remain concerns about theft and damage.

Last-mile delivery costs

Owing to the lower labor costs from automated navigation using GPS, drone shipments are much cheaper than other forms of last-mile parcel delivery. Labor comprises the highest component of current delivery costs, and while this can be partially reduced through using package lockers, doing so creates additional fixed costs. Delivery costs are a crucial component of online shopping though, with almost three quarters of shoppers in the United States saying that the option for free shipping greatly impacts their ordering decision. Retailers are keenly aware of this, with cost reduction being the most important goal of new last-mile delivery initiatives.

Projected cost of parcel delivery per drone shipment in North America from 2016 to 2020, by price of drone (in U.S. dollars)*

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Release date



North America

Survey time period

December 2013

Supplementary notes

According to the source, values are calculated assuming 17 percent of the shipments are done by drone in 2016 and rising to 86 percent by 2020. Also the amount of packages shipped are assumed to increase with a 1.5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and a direct and indirect drone operational expenditure (OpEx) to be eight percent of the drone prices and declining at five percent per year.

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