E-Drone - Our Research Vision
Vans are the fastest-growing category of licensed road vehicle in the UK, significantly impacting on carbon emissions. Vans performing service functions make up the large proportion of activity and, given the increasing access constraints imposed on freight vehicles by city authorities, alternative operating practices are being seriously investigated by logistics providers.
Our research into how drones and land logistics systems can be combined and managed will provide fundamental new understanding into the impacts of regulation and operating criteria on the energy efficiency of mixed logistics fleets. Drones are increasingly seen as a new mode to assist in last-mile logistics to significantly reduce service times, energy consumption and emissions, with NHS patient diagnostics being seen as a realistic domain that could utilise drones on a commercial scale. With the NHS spending an estimated £2.5 billion annually on pathology logistics alone, and with patient numbers rising, there is a need to re-think how logistics costs could be reduced along with energy demand, whilst improving the bleed-to-diagnosis times for patients.
The drone global market is estimated to have grown from $2 billion in 2016, to nearly $127 billion in 2020 and is expected to have a significant impact on both controlled and uncontrolled airspace. The greatest barrier to drone adoption into logistics fleets is the current lack of integration of drones within civil airspace, which requires development of suitable air traffic rules. The true energy savings and overall viability of drones in this domain will only be realised when the regulations governing their use and the operational implications have been quantified.
Our research vision for the E-Drone project is to examine the energy reduction potential of integrated logistics solutions involving Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, commonly known as drones) operating alongside traditional and sustainable last-mile delivery solutions (e.g. vans, cargo cycles, walking porters).
This involves generating fundamental new understanding of how drone operations will function in shared airspace in harmony with traditional, crewed aircraft under various regulations. The project uses a case study approach based around NHS patient diagnostic sample transportation involving simulated and live trials across the Solent region.
Meet the E-Drone Research Team
Professor of Logistics and Transport Management
University of Southampton
University of Southampton
Post Doctoral Research Fellow
Professor of Transport Governance
University of Leeds