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Title: Energy use and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of drones for commercial package delivery

Here, the use of automated, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to deliver commercial packages is poised to become a new industry, significantly shifting energy use in the freight sector. Here we find the current practical range of multi-copters to be about 4 km with current battery technology, requiring a new network of urban warehouses or waystations as support. We show that, although drones consume less energy per package-km than delivery trucks, the additional warehouse energy required and the longer distances traveled by drones per package greatly increase the life-cycle impacts. Still, in most cases examined, the impacts of package delivery by small drone are lower than ground-based delivery. Results suggest that, if carefully deployed, drone-based delivery could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use in the freight sector. To realize the environmental benefits of drone delivery, regulators and firms should focus on minimizing extra warehousing and limiting the size of drones.
Authors:
ORCiD logo [1] ; ORCiD logo [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [3] ;  [5]
  1. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
  2. Carnegie Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh, PA (United States)
  3. SRI International, Menlo Park, CA (United States)
  4. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
  5. SRI International, Menlo Park, CA (United States); LeoLabs, Inc., Menlo Park, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
LLNL-JRNL-676427
Journal ID: ISSN 2041-1723; 794870
Grant/Contract Number:
AC52-07NA27344
Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 9; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; Climate-change mitigation; Energy efficiency; Energy science and technology
OSTI Identifier:
1440731

Stolaroff, Joshuah K., Samaras, Constantine, O'Neill, Emma R., Lubers, Alia, Mitchell, Alexandra S., and Ceperley, Daniel. Energy use and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of drones for commercial package delivery. United States: N. p., Web. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02411-5.
Stolaroff, Joshuah K., Samaras, Constantine, O'Neill, Emma R., Lubers, Alia, Mitchell, Alexandra S., & Ceperley, Daniel. Energy use and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of drones for commercial package delivery. United States. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02411-5.
Stolaroff, Joshuah K., Samaras, Constantine, O'Neill, Emma R., Lubers, Alia, Mitchell, Alexandra S., and Ceperley, Daniel. 2018. "Energy use and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of drones for commercial package delivery". United States. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02411-5. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1440731.
@article{osti_1440731,
title = {Energy use and life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of drones for commercial package delivery},
author = {Stolaroff, Joshuah K. and Samaras, Constantine and O'Neill, Emma R. and Lubers, Alia and Mitchell, Alexandra S. and Ceperley, Daniel},
abstractNote = {Here, the use of automated, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to deliver commercial packages is poised to become a new industry, significantly shifting energy use in the freight sector. Here we find the current practical range of multi-copters to be about 4 km with current battery technology, requiring a new network of urban warehouses or waystations as support. We show that, although drones consume less energy per package-km than delivery trucks, the additional warehouse energy required and the longer distances traveled by drones per package greatly increase the life-cycle impacts. Still, in most cases examined, the impacts of package delivery by small drone are lower than ground-based delivery. Results suggest that, if carefully deployed, drone-based delivery could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use in the freight sector. To realize the environmental benefits of drone delivery, regulators and firms should focus on minimizing extra warehousing and limiting the size of drones.},
doi = {10.1038/s41467-017-02411-5},
journal = {Nature Communications},
number = 1,
volume = 9,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {2}
}