The public perception of the delivery of drones has so far been relatively poor. Studies in the UK and elsewhere have shown that at most about half of the people living in the communities surveyed did not understand the point.
That’s because they apparently had never seen or received a drone shipment. New research from the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), a federally designated drone test site, and Lee Vinsel, Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at the College of Humanities and Humanities, focused on the Community of Christiansburg, VA: The first community in the US to introduce a home drone delivery service. MAAP and Wing have started the drone delivery program as part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP): the test will continue under BEYOND.
When the 22,000 residents of Christianburg were asked about the delivery of drones – after actually seeing and using a commercial drone delivery service – the answers were consistently positive.
“The most important thing is that speculation about technology is different from actual experience with it,” Vinsel said. “Many factors influence our attitudes towards the technologies in our lives, but scientists have repeatedly determined over the past sixty years that familiarity creates acceptance. It’s pretty exciting to be early on in the adoption of this technology and be able to study a population that has actually experienced it. “
The study published in the spring issue of Issues in Science and Technology shows that in Christianburg the public perception of the delivery of drones is great. 87% of respondents said they liked the concept of drone delivery. It recognized Wing’s efforts during the pandemic to deliver library books and expand its service to accommodate more local businesses. “Fifty-eight percent of those polled in Christiansburg said their opinion about drone delivery has improved – a much bigger boost than a 2020 Consumer Technology Assocation survey that asked a general sample of the population,” it says a press release from Virginia Tech reported the research. “Here too, the experience of the residents of Christiansburg with the delivery of drones may have contributed to the jump. When a favorite coffee shop finds a new way to reach customers without having to shop in person, or a neighbor’s kid possibly a delivery of chalk and crackers on the sidewalk, resonance gets more than an abstract appreciation for contactless delivery. ”
Communication keys to improve public perception of drone delivery
What may have contributed to the success of the Christianburg drone delivery program was the significant community outreach project that was carried out before the first drone landed on a porch in residential areas. MAAP and Wing spoke to thousands of residents about what the service wanted and answered questions and concerns.
“One of the goals of the IPP was a community-driven approach to drone integration,” said Tombo Jones, MAAP director. “There is no shortcut here. You need careful, methodical research to prove that the system is safe and reliable. Then you can bring that information into the community and talk to people to learn what they are looking for and what their concerns are. It is worthwhile to see how positive the results of this survey are as they show that developing new applications for drones, if done right, can have a really positive impact on a community. “
Compare this to previous surveys conducted with no experience of drone delivery or no explanation of what a drone delivery program might look like: these negative results may not be entirely accurate.
“First, these surveys asked people who were almost certain to have never received a delivery by drone and speculated about a service they imagined rather than reporting on one they had experienced,” the press release said. “Second, many of the survey questions framed their questions as risky and asked respondents to rate their concerns about potential problems pre-selected by the researchers. Highlighting potential negative outcomes can make the overall mood more negative. “
Important research results
The survey found that of the more than 800 respondents:
- 87% liked the idea of drone delivery
- 89% would use the service
- 58% said their opinion about drone delivery had improved during the pandemic
While the news has been excellent for the public’s perception of drone delivery, it could be positive for other commercial drone applications as well. Wing and researchers have learned that outreach, education, and experience are critical factors in enhancing community acceptance. Commercial drone service providers can use this approach to open doors in other communities.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.
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