Drones support the development of the sharing economy

By December 04, 2013
Drones underpin the sharing economy

Besides reducing the delivery time, the use of drones could facilitate rental and sharing between individuals.

Amazon through its CEO Jeff Bezos announced with great fanfare the forthcoming establishment of a delivery service almost instantaneously through drones in cooperation with its network of warehouses. This service, Amazon Prime Air will not be available before 2015 and is still conditioned by the agreement of the concerned authorities. Yet the use of drones has already inspired many initiatives including services part of the sharing economy. Nevertheless rental services among individuals as offered by successful Airbnb or GetAround are not necessarily economically viable for products rarely used or with very punctual uses. The use of drones opens the way to instant rental services leading to a new consumption paradigm less centered on property than on decentralized sharing.

Towards a peer-to -peer decentralized model

The technology offered by drones including an almost ubiquity of supplies makes it possible to consider new ways of consuming that are more focused on sharing. Sam Lessin, product manager for Facebook and one of the most ardent theorists of this movement sees Amazon Prime Air and its underlying technology as a similar project to Uber or Google’s connected cars participant movement contributing to the "end of ownership" Thanks delivery time optimization, best practices already experienced in specific sectors (culture, transportation, real estate) could generalize and extend the scope of the sharing economy . And services offered by Netflix  for instance, delivering a dvd by mail before returning it could be taken up by rental companies of various goods, clothing , cooking utensils or hand tools used occasionally . According to Lessin drones will therefore trigger long-term change in consumption patterns , users could thus reduce their property field to focus on widespread access to various goods and services.

A set of regulatory and financial constraints 

However, the legal framework of the generalized implementation of drones delivery remains unclear. Indeed, air traffic in the United States is subject to a strict control of the federal agency FAA , which has not yet unveiled its position on the specific matter of industrial and domestic drones. According to the only roadmap available, the standardization process would take up to 5 years and it would consider make it mandatory for pilots to operate the drones. Moreover, the cost of this new mode of delivery n is not necessarily competitive with available alternatives. According to R. John Hansman Professor of Aeronautics at MIT, the business model remains to be determined and it is likely that e-commerce sites charge a premium to keep a benefit on such services. Finally, to ensure efficient and seamless delivery, it is necessary to establish an ecosystem considering the various alternatives and technical constraints. For example Matternet ,  developed at Singularity University , the NASA-backed incubator, plans to deploy a network of charging stations to support long distance journeys, especially for the delivery of medical equipment in developing countries.

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