A Comparative Analysis of the Environmental Benefits of Drone-Based Delivery Services in Urban and Rural Areas

Jiyoon Park, Solhee Kim, Kyo Suh
Sustainability, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2018

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, drones) used as delivery vehicles have received increasing
attention due to their mobility and accessibility to remote areas. The purpose of this study is
to evaluate the environmental impacts of drone versus motorcycle delivery and to compare the
expected environmental improvements due to drone delivery in urban and rural areas. In addition,
the potential environmental contributions of electric motorcycles were assessed to determine the
effects of introducing this new type of vehicle. Changes in the national electricity generation plan
were also examined. The results showed that global warming potential (GWP) per 1 km delivery by
drone was one-sixth that of motorcycle delivery, and the particulates produced by drone delivery
were half that of motorcycle delivery. The actual environmental impact reduction in consideration of
the delivery distance was 13 times higher in a rural area than in an urban area. Increasing the use of
environmentally friendly electricity systems, such as solar and wind power, would further enhance
the environmental effects of a drone delivery system.

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