Drone Study Shows Consumers Are Ready - InformationWeek
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Drone Study Shows Consumers Are Ready

Consumers think drones are ready for prime time. But can the devices live up to the hype?

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Consumers are ready for drones to ship goods to their houses but, sadly, it looks like drones aren't quite ready for us.

An upcoming Walker Sands report, "Reinventing Retail: What Businesses Need to Know for 2015," covers multiple changes in the habits and desires of consumers, including how consumers feel about emerging technologies such as drone delivery.

A whopping 88% of the 1,400 consumers surveyed for the Walker Sands report said they would trust a drone to deliver at least one type of package straight to their door. Let's put that number in perspective. You can't get 88% of people to trust scientists to believe the Earth goes around the Sun. Only 74% of people believe that. But 88% will accept a flying robot on their property, despite the fact that the No.1 user of drones to this point has been the military.

The Walker Sands report further noted that over 74% of respondents are willing to trust drones to deliver books, and 73% would trust them with clothes.

In an interview with InformationWeek, Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, explained that such drone acceptance occurs because consumers really don't care about the "how," but only about the "what." And the what, in this case, is faster delivery of products to their doors.

Despite the fact that 66% of those polled for the Walker Sands report believe they will see a drone deliver a package within five years, Haggerty is skeptical. "I don’t know if [drone delivery in five years] is a reasonable thing to expect, but it is all a step in a process," Haggerty said, "Whether it is a drone or something we can’t imagine, like a George Jetson-like spaceship, the problem we're talking about is getting something from point A to point B. And we will figure that out. The technology is already there. It is about driving the price down."

[ What will the FAA's new drone rules change? Read: FAA Rules Should Spur Drone Experiments. ]

Haggerty went on to point out that, basically, most products are already within easy proximity to most consumers. Think about how few things you couldn't buy for yourself in an hour if you wanted them. Instead of the consumer going to get them, the process is simply about bringing the goods to the consumer. The technological question is really about unused resources. "Think about how many trucks are deadheading from point B back to point A to pick up another load," said Haggerty. "We’re not utilizing resources efficiently."

Ultimately, in order to lower prices, packages need to be consolidated so it costs less to deliver more packages. That's the opposite of the drone in many ways. The view of the drone is a fleet of tiny robots delivering a package or two at a time. You aren't consolidating time and energy costs. You are separating them.

That's even before we get to major obstacles such as the FAA reporting new rules that say drones need to stay within the line of sight of the operator in order to be used commercially. Though, interestingly, Haggerty thinks that is less of an obstacle than it might appear. As she points out, the air traffic control problem wasn't solved before the Wright Brothers. It was solved after they made it necessary.

(Image: Frankhoffner via Wikipedia)

(Image: Frankhoffner via Wikipedia)

So while consumers are ready for drones, the drones might not be ready for us. What is an enterprise to do? For one, it can make a better use of existing resources. As Haggerty said, the technology is there. The goods are close. "The milkman used to deliver every day."

Perhaps we'll see an Uber for delivery trucks. Or someone will continue to use technology to improve on efficient use of routing packages. There is a business opportunity in taking our current logistics solutions and improving them.

Or maybe 3-D printing will be the next drone. Maybe the reality is that we will perfect the replication of products in our homes before we solve air traffic control for drones.

If you are a retailer or a logistics company (or just someone that has to move a lot of stuff around) remember the issue is moving things from point A to point B. Consumers don't trust drones because they like flying robots buzzing their houses. They like drones because they like getting stuff fast. Solve that problem, and they won't care how you do it.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2015 | 6:54:09 PM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
@billbo31- First, these tiny ones are covered in styrofoam. They aren't bricks. Second, they seldom fail in the way you are talking about where they simply drop from the sky with little or no warning. Third, the type of safety equipment you are talking about is exactly the kind of stuff real professionals like Curt and i are talking about would add. 

I'm not advocating for any old fool to get to fly around 50 lb aluminum tiny fighter jets. We're talking about small drones with small payloads or those professionally flown and maintained.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2015 | 6:49:54 PM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
@billb031- That's why I said this in my last comment: "Granted, if we go up to 55 lbs as the FAA suggests, we're not in harmless land anymore." But most drones these days are smaller and smaller. There is little need for a 55 lb drone for bridge inspection or shooting video. They only get big when you need to lift a heavy payload. And given the requirement to keep those in line of sight, that won't be the common use for them.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2015 | 2:08:39 PM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
Same with you.  Lets do an experiment where I get up on the roof of my house, about 20 feet off the ground, and drop a 4.5lb brick on your head and see just how serious your injuries will be.

All do respect, I find your words somewhat non-objective


There's a high chance that drones will fall out of the sky due to malpractise or hardware failure, and people will get injured. Are there any idea that may help people from injury?
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2015 | 2:05:20 PM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
I think for some industries drones will be the right fit.  May be Delivery of packages to rural areas may be a good fit as well.   security, instead of having guards you can have a set of drones.  My friend lives close to an airport and you can hear the sound of the airplanes. I would hate to be woken up by the buzzing sound of drones. 


I think the same. Drones are good. Just don't make them fly into my room through the windows, I think that is what everyone is asking. Also. it doesn't take much to shoot down drones to salvage the shipments. They should talk more about security and less about feasibility.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2015 | 12:17:47 PM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
I think for some industries drones will be the right fit.  May be Delivery of packages to rural areas may be a good fit as well.   security, instead of having guards you can have a set of drones.  My friend lives close to an airport and you can hear the sound of the airplanes. I would hate to be woken up by the buzzing sound of drones. 
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/20/2015 | 11:12:58 AM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
@BillB031, this is where the "don't fly over people who aren't involved in the activity" comes into play. If people are going through normal activities and aren't aware of the copter, then you shouldn't be flying in a way that puts them at risk.

 

Frankly, a 55-pound drone should have two operators and be either on a closed film set or in an industrial/agricultural setting. The price of something like that puts it well out of general hobbyist range. Most people I know are learning on quads that are under 1 kilogram and most of them will never go above that. Can you build a scenario in which you hurt someone with one of these? Sure you can. But we haven't seen carnage (and I don't think we will) because the true fad-chasers will move on to something else and the people who remain will be pursuing uses that don't involve destroying their copters or getting involved in lawsuits.

 

It's good to have the debate because there will always be some folks who push the envelope. Some of that envelope-pushing will lead to great new uses, some will lead to new rules, and some will lead us to scratch our heads and wonder where Darwin went wrong. <grin>
BillB031
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BillB031,
User Rank: Moderator
2/20/2015 | 10:25:22 AM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
@Curt Franklin

Same with you.  Lets do an experiment where I get up on the roof of my house, about 20 feet off the ground, and drop a 4.5lb brick on your head and see just how serious your injuries will be.

All do respect, I find your words somewhat non-objective

"Now, as with any complex system, things can go wrong, but there are a lot of redundancies built in. And the drones I fly weigh no more than about 4.5 pounds: In the worst case they would bruise and scratch, but not inflict serious injury."

 

There are no redundancies built in other than low battery indicators, and return to home gps.  What about if one of the 4 electric motors shorts or locks up, or loses a prop?  That thing will fall out of the sky like a rock.  You said it yourself "complex system"
BillB031
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BillB031,
User Rank: Moderator
2/20/2015 | 10:06:31 AM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
@David Wagner

Harmless if they fall from the sky?  55lb not in harmless land anymore?  Lets try an experiment.  I'll get up on a ladder 10ft off the ground, and I'll drop a 10lb bowling ball on your head.  Being the average guy is 6ft tall, thus the bowling ball will have only 4ft to fall to cave in your head. We will see if that's "harmless land"
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 10:49:45 PM
Re: Hard hats and bridges
@Dave, I think you're right about the safety. I also suspect that, as with many tech "toys", we'll see a lot of people get a quad-copter, use it for a while, then move on. In a couple of years, the people still flying drones will be more serious about safety and performance -- and more disciplined in their flight parameters.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/19/2015 | 10:46:33 PM
Re: I Love My Drone
@Dave, I can imagine some delivery cases for drones -- especially if you want to get valuable goods to locations that are difficult to reach with manned aircraft or surface vehicles. For bringing pizza to the front door, though, I think it's going to be a long time before we can use a drone to better effect than a college student in a beat-up Toyota.
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