Drone technology fails all transport system objectives, and has a number of fatal flaws

Submitted by john on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 15:47

Electric passenger carrying drones are under development and are not yet available for deployment. There are major hurdles to overcome, relating to safety, air traffic control, capacity for transit, capacity for landing, and performance in the wind. They are not much different to helicopters in regard to energy usage. Costs are likely to be 25c/veh-km capital cost and $1/veh-km operating cost. 500 landing sites are assumed for Melbourne, associated with football grounds; requiring 2,000km of feeder services. Drones will be able to attract 20% of traffic away from cars, due to the high speeds: 200kph, but limited by the high cost, increased risk, and reliability as impacted by wind.
As a result, Drones will:
* not reduce crashes, but will replace crashes in cars with more serious crashes in drones;
* have no monitoring, have slightly increased exposure during travel, at vehicle change, and when waiting, so will increase assaults;
* not improve amenity by reducing car traffic, but will only reduce car traffic by 20%, so retaining most pollution, and not improving amenity;
* not remove congestion, but decrease it slightly;
* make trip times slightly faster for most people, but will greatly speed up trips for the select few;
* not generate extra revenue, but will be revenue neutral;
* not create many more jobs, but reduce the jobs foregone by congestion;
* not create trip time reliability, but will introduce unreliable trips due to wind;
* not reduce CO2, but the unacceptable increased energy use will far exceed that of conventional vehicles;
* and it is not cheap enough to improve rural service.
In short, drones are not available, but if their hurdles can be overcome, they will fail all objectives but provide a high speed service to a select few. It has fatal flaws of not enough mode change and excessive energy use. It fails on equity.