Freight transport is responsible for roughly a third of all greenhouse gases. In addition to high pollution, a large number of trucks also block traffic. This sector is responsible for 37% of transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while light-duty vehicles comprise 57% of transportation GHG emissions and 64% of transportation energy use. All over the world, various ways are being sought by which mankind could significantly reduce the production of greenhouse gases. The solution could be greater use of drones in the transport of parcels. More and more large companies are investing in these technologies, which are faster, more environmentally friendly and cheaper than traditional trucks burning fossil fuels.

What did the research show?

Greenhouse gas emissions during package delivery were investigated by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. They made a fascinating discovery. Drones can have up to 94% lower energy consumption per package than other vehicles. Small quadcopter drones consume approximately 0.08 MJ/km and emit 70 gCO2e/package.

“We show the impact of the cruise speed and payload mass on the drone’s range, provide generalizable coefficients for others to estimate drone energy use, and show that the energy per package delivered by drones can be up to 94% lower than conventional transportation modes, ” the researchers noted in their study appearing in the journal Patterns.

Drones as the future of delivery

Drones may seem like the future of delivery, but the world is not yet ready for them. Around 660,000 drones are used for delivery worldwide. According to the American consulting firm McKinsey, around 2,000 deliveries are made by drone every day, and this number is constantly increasing. At the end of 2022, it could be up to 1.5 million deliveries per year. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University measured the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of parcel delivery. For research, they used quadcopters that transported packages weighing around half a kilogram to their destination. 188 test flights were made. The drones were operated at different distances and flew at different speeds.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Drones are more environmentally friendly than electric trucks

Some think that electric trucks are the best option, but a study found that drones are a much more environmentally friendly option. Only e-bikes are more energy efficient. It may seem inefficient for drones to transport only one shipment at a time, but there are already powerful drones on the market that could deliver multiple shipments at once so that they don’t have to keep coming back.

Even heavier loads of several kilograms, which could be transported with the help of more powerful and larger drones, are no longer an obstacle. Drones can transport a wide range of shipments, from fast food to medicine, mail or even electronics. A survey by McKinsey shows that 60% of respondents would welcome the possibility of delivery using drones. Regulations in individual countries have a great influence on the development of drone use. As customers are looking for ever cheaper delivery options, the use of drones in the transportation of parcels will increase in the future.


Image credit: Carnegie Mellon University,