October 11, 2016 (RARC-WP-17-001)
- More Americans like the concept of drone delivery than dislike it, but a large number have yet to decide.
- Drone malfunction is the public's primary concern — far more than fears about intentional misuse.
- Exposure to information about drone delivery correlates with greater interest in the idea.
- The American public anticipates that drone delivery will be offered within the next 5 to 10 years.
The national conversation about drone delivery began after a December 2013 60 Minutes interview in which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos predicted that, although the technology was still 4 to 5 years away, someday the skies would be filled with an army of flying machines zipping back and forth between warehouses and people's homes. Since Amazon's surprising introduction of the concept, there has been a flurry of activity among logistics organizations, drone manufacturers, and postal operators in countries as far-flung as Switzerland, Singapore, and Australia, all exploring how to bring the idea to fruition.
One important voice that has yet to be truly heard on the topic, however, is that of the everyday citizens who could benefit from, or perhaps dislike, having parcel-laden drones flying overhead.
If the U.S. Postal Service intends to consider the option of incorporating drones into its operations, tracking the public's rapidly evolving perception of this new mode of delivery will be essential to shaping the groundwork of Postal Service's strategy. Though it will still take a few years for the technology to mature and the regulatory framework to emerge, proactively examining the concept could allow the Postal Service to better assess its operational feasibility, fundamental economics, regulatory compliance, and social implications.
In order to understand the current state of public opinion on drone delivery, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) administered a national survey investigating the public's take on the overall appeal of drone technology, its most and least interesting applications, the believability of claims about its potential benefits, the public's expected timeframe for implementation, potential concerns, and how the public would view drone delivery if it were offered by five prominent players in the logistics and technology fields.