UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) can be used to deliver a variety of cargo, including commercial goods, spare parts, and medical supplies such as vaccines, first aid kits and blood. Delivery drones provide a number of advantages over traditional manned delivery methods, including reduced road congestion, fewer emissions, and faster delivery times. They may also be able to access areas that trucks and manned aircraft cannot, such as remote and mountainous areas or disaster zones.
Delivery UAVs may be used for shorter last-mile deliveries, particularly in urban areas, or longer deliveries to destinations at great distances from the take-off point. Last-mile delivery UAV can be launched from a mobile platform such as a delivery truck, or may take off from and return to a local depot. Larger drones designed for long-distance deliveries will typically require a fixed takeoff site such as a depot or an airport.
Cargo drones may need to land to have their cargo unloaded, or may deliver it via parachute or by using a tethered drop mechanism.
Short-range delivery drones may be operated LOS (line-of-sight) by a pilot. In order to be truly efficient, long-range delivery drones need to operate autonomously and BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight), as this will reduce manpower costs and operation times. Autonomous delivery UAV need to be equipped with a detect-and-avoid (DAA) system to ensure safe operation at all times. They may also require other sensors such as LiDAR for precision takeoff and landing, as well as specialized software and cloud connectivity that allows them to communicate with their base stations.
UVH-500 Heavy lift cargo drone by UAVOS Inc.
Cargo UAV platforms may be multirotor, unmanned helicopter or fixed-wing UAVs, and may have a range of carrying capacities ranging from a single parcel weighing less than a kilogram to significant payloads of several hundred kilograms. Heavy lift drones for transporting cargo are typically multirotor UAVs due to the enhanced stability and manoeuvrability provided by heavy-lift drone motors.