A First-Ever Look at the Sustainability of Autonomous Aerial Logistics
Edward Fu
November 2, 2021

Zipline recently completed the world’s first sustainability analysis of a real-world, scaled UAS logistics system’s deliveries based on actual customer and order data, finding a 98% reduction in delivery emissions compared to using cars.

By using Zipline’s electric, 50lb autonomous aircraft to provide essential medical products to rural hospitals and clinics, these on-demand deliveries experienced a:

  • 99% reduction in delivery carbon emissions compared to using vans
  • 98% reduction in delivery carbon emissions compared to using cars
  • 94% reduction in delivery carbon emissions compared to using electric vehicles

Our full analysis, including methodology, sources, and assumptions, can be found here and linked in the image below. This isn’t the end of the story when it comes to our sustainability — but it’s an exciting beginning.

The importance of sustainable on-demand delivery

Nowhere are the benefits of on-demand delivery more apparent than in medicine. Today, in the areas that Zipline serves, a rural doctor can get nearly any type of blood, vaccine, or any other medical product he or she needs, in less than an hour.

But as demand grows for on-demand delivery across all sectors, it is essential to ensure that those goods are delivered by the most sustainable methods. Transportation already represents one of the largest sources of carbon emissions around the world. Exacerbating that impact by adding two million delivery cars and trucks to our streets is unthinkable.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Zipline’s autonomous aircraft are the best of both worlds: not only do they enable faster and more reliable on-demand deliveries, but they also produce orders of magnitude less carbon emissions than a car. Together we can make our supply chain more resilient, equitable, and sustainable.