Honors Thesis Spotlight: Identifying Opportunities Available through Utilization of Unmanned Aerial Delivery Programs in Support of Public Safety in the U.S., Based on Present Use Cases around the World

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have been seen in the public sphere as early as the 1950’s with Sputnik 1. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems is defined by the federal aviation administration as, “aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft”. These systems are increasingly promising in the global economy however, the popularity of UAS, more commonly known as a drone, for efficiency and delivery is severely lacking. Despite wavering popularity, drones harbor the capacity to deliver physical objects and promote public safety. Progress is stalled domestically due a sea of regulations in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates civil aviation to promote the safety of the public. In this thesis, the author considers the use of drones for delivery and public safety as untapped potential. The author utilizes case studies and surveys to assess the use and impact of these systems abroad, which could inform the domestic utilization of UAS.

The author researched actors and stakeholders that have a similar economic makeup to the United States and compared their uses of UASs. More specifically, they looked at the commonwealth of Australia, Rwanda, The People’s Republic of China, and Japan. Interview and survey methods were also used to acquire a more robust understanding of individual and corporational use of UAS. Surveys were structured to understand how private, public, and government enterprises employ UAS.  These surveys were then distributed among various organizations like police stations and manufacturers of UAS. However, due to a lack of survey responses the author supplemented the information obtained with literature reviews from scholarly articles, news media coverage, primary accounts of UAS regulators, and operators and their activities in the form of press releases and literature.

The surveys produced sparse results, as only two organizations answered. These organizations stated that, ultimately, UAS operations are starting to mature and are greatly affecting the internal operation systems of organizations using UAS technology. They also stated that people misunderstand the definition and scope of UAS technology, which leads to more regulations and distrust.

However, focusing on the U.S the author provides two categories for public safety operations using UAS. The first being where UAS can expedite shipping for time sensitive cargo and the second is getting UAS to help respond to emergency situations in which otherwise it would be impossible to respond to The first is exemplified by companies like UPS and Zipline. They focus on unmanned delivery and aid in the growth of UAS in everyday life and as a tool for efficiency. The second category is best seen when a small rescue team needs aid in their search and a UAS can help them to achieve their goals more quickly and inherently save more lives.            

In conclusion, the author outlines that the only thing standing between the United States and using UAS as a tool to promote efficiency are the restrictions put into place by the FAA. In regard to public safety there is room for higher utilization of these systems. Nonetheless, the United States is making huge strides towards UAS use for public safety and the discovery of what UASs can do for the market domestically. Given the survey data and the information provided in the literature reviews the popularization and use of UASs in the United states can only be beneficial.

Holden L.S. Bradey graduated from the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University. This post is based on Holden’s honors thesis. You can learn more about Holden here. You can learn more about this project here.

Source for featured image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/shadow-image-of-a-plane-flying-during-sunset-104826/

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