So for Amazon, which now owns Whole Foods, drones could, say, deliver groceries from the roof of stores already dotted throughout cities like San Francisco.
Still, it’s hard to imagine an urban scenario where this doesn’t get messy fast. A delivery truck can carry hundreds of packages, after all. “So every time you would see one of those vans or trucks, you might imagine hundreds of drones in the sky,” says co-author Costa Samaras, a civil environmental engineer at Carnegie Mellon. “That has a noise component, it has a visual component, it has a safety component, it has a privacy component.”
While delivery drones, like any other kind of automation, could be great for the bottom line of these companies, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this. “It’s pretty clear that companies are interested in doing this,” says Samaras. “What’s important is understanding the ways that policy makers could guide the beneficial outcomes now before there are a bunch of drones in the sky delivering packages.”