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Green buzz: How drones will be good for the environment

Ian Bushnell 11 December 2018 12

A Wing drone delivering a package. The company argues drone deliveries are the safest, fastest and most environmentally friendly mode of transport. Photo: Wing.

The introduction of a drone delivery service in the ACT would help the Territory meet its zero emissions goal and reduce congestion on Canberra’s roads, according to a new report.

Commissioned by Wing, which is preparing to trial drone delivery services in Canberra’s north next year from its new base in Mitchell, the report by AlphaBeta says that by 2030 drones could replace 6 per cent or 35 million kilometres of delivery-related road travel a year, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 8000 tonnes or the equivalent in carbon storage of almost 250,000 trees.

The report estimates that by 2030 there will be about 67 million household deliveries by road a year in the ACT.

“By delivering up to 4-6 per cent of transactions, drones could materially reduce the number of unnecessary vehicles on the road, reducing congestion and the associated greenhouse gas emissions,” the report says.

“Delivery vehicles are large, heavy and can disproportionately disrupt other road users. Parking and access to loading areas often delay and inconvenience other commuters and pedestrians. Delivery-related congestion in high-density areas has only increased in the era of ride-sharing and food delivery.”

It argues that with road transport responsible for nearly 70 per cent of the ACT’s emissions, and cars accounting for 44 per cent of emissions, electric-powered drones were perfectly placed to play a significant role in reducing the Territory’s emissions by replacing car journeys.

AlphaBeta says that by 2030 personal pick-ups via car will account for about three-quarters of transactions in the ACT and a 2018 study found that cars are the worst polluters, emitting an average of 4,600 grams of greenhouse gas per trip.

The study found that small drones emit 25 grams of greenhouse gas per last-mile delivery, compared with 296-728 grams for delivery trucks or vans, after accounting for the economies of scale that these trucks can achieve by delivering multiple packages along their route.

AlphaBeta says replacing 35 million vehicle-kilometres of road-based deliveries and pick-ups could also result in 70 fewer accidents a year.

The ACT Government has a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, with transport one of the biggest challenges. At present, the ACT emits 1.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas each year.

Wing has lodged a development application to fit out its Mitchell warehouse and is conducting a publicity campaign in the northern suburbs of Franklin, Harrison, Crace, Gungahlin and Palmerston, where it plans to trial its service in 2019.

Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess said: “Drone delivery is the safest, fastest and most environmentally friendly mode of transport and we’re incredibly excited about the potential long-term benefits of drone delivery for Canberra in improving road safety and reducing vehicle emissions.”

Wing has received a hostile reaction to its Bonython trial in Canberra’s south, mainly over noise and privacy, including a petition tabled in the Legislative Assembly, and next year will also face an Assembly committee inquiry, which will look at the potential for cutting emissions, as well as noise and privacy.


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12 Responses to
Green buzz: How drones will be good for the environment
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10:37 am 12 Dec 18

Do we really believe that this US company is prepared to trial all this in a foreign country, pay for all this research from a highly commended research company, just to capture 4-6% of the market in the future? Really?

Lucy Baker 11:03 pm 11 Dec 18

Did the report take into account the advent of zero-emission cars concurrently? Nope! Project Wing need to note that this is an educated public they are trying to convince, and so far they have been fatuous on all fronts.

10:10 pm 11 Dec 18

That only works if drones replace vehicular deliveries, which is unlikely given the 1.2kg limit per drone. This is a new service that will create additional demand, not simply meet existing demand.

7:32 pm 11 Dec 18

I'll bet the local bird wildlife wouldn't agree.

Bolbi 7:32 pm 11 Dec 18

I’d much prefer to achieve zero emissions goals without some of the most horrendous noise pollution imaginable. Canberrans should demand better. Imagine if Wing are successful.

5:51 pm 11 Dec 18

Keep talking it up.

muzza 5:08 pm 11 Dec 18

Wing’s commissioned work is far too narrow. The social environment is ignored completely. How is driving a lot of people nuts with invasive noise in Bonython environmentally friendly? What about all the missing birdlife that has decided it’s easier just to buzz off. Better that Wing buzzes off instead – back to the USA – not needed here.

NoDrone.Zone 2:29 pm 11 Dec 18

Wing are pushing hard with the corporate propaganda and spin at the moment and now they have started the “green-washing” process.

It would be fascinating to actually read the AlphaBeta report in it’s entirety… I’ve been unable to find it on the web and I’d ask whether Ian Bushnell has actually had access to the whole report or is simply parroting quotes from a generic Wing media release?

Without being able to scrutinize the report in detail there appears huge assumptions that last mile delivery by traditional (fossil fuel powered) delivery vans and trucks will continue to be responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions. Mainstream vehicle manufacturers are rapidly developing and bringing to market EV technology – For example VW alone planning to have 27 electric car models by 2022. Powering and operating electric road vehicles in the ACT will result in zero emissions as the ACT Government claiming to be on track to reach 100% renewable energy by 2020.

We can expect Wing to continue with their hardcore propaganda push as they know that they are going to be fighting a losing battle as the general public comes to realize there will be significant loss of residential amenity due the service generating significant noise and the impinging the right to personal privacy.

1:29 pm 11 Dec 18

Lol. Commissioned by Wing.. the company that is flying the drones.

Capital Retro 12:20 pm 11 Dec 18

Green buzz? More like green spin.

Isn’t Wing owned by one of the huge on-line global companies? So, how are they going to be able to deliver 99% of the stuff that the drones can’t handle?

Guess they will still have to rely on those “large, heavy vehicles that disrupt other road users”

12:16 pm 11 Dec 18

Comparing delivery of just over one kilogram by a drone and large items by transport vehicle is a bit of a stretch; larger drones capable of carrying bigger loads are petrol powered anyway. Companies commission studies with terms of reference to suit themselves all the time.

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