Drones could deliver $40 million boost to ACT business, study finds

Household delivery drones could provide a $40 million boost to businesses in the ACT, according to new research, which predicts the technology would allow them to reach new customers, grow sales and slash overheads.

Tech company Wing commissioned the economic impact study into household delivery drone services in the capital as it prepares to launch a permanent service in Canberra's northern suburbs.

The economic impact study, prepared by consultancy firm AlphaBeta and published on Friday, estimated that aerial delivery method would create an additional 600,000 sales for ACT businesses by 2030, generating between $30-$40 million in added revenue. About $10-$15 million would be accrued by small businesses, equating to as much as $16,000 per trader.

Research commissioned by tech company Wing has estimated drone deliveries could deliver a $40 million economic boost for ACT businesses.  Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Research commissioned by tech company Wing has estimated drone deliveries could deliver a $40 million economic boost for ACT businesses. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The projections rely on the premise that deliveries by air are more time and cost effective than deliveries via road, making customers more likely to indulge in "additional or higher-value purchases".

The study also stated that the speed of drones deliveries would encourage customers to order items they would otherwise pick up themselves, such as groceries and medical supplies.

The aircraft - which can travel up to 125 km/h - would expand a businesses delivery range, increasing their number of potential customers.

"The current radius of food delivery in Canberra, for example, is only four or five kilometres," the study found.

"Road delivery vehicles are too slow to get food in good condition to customers much further than that, so businesses focus just on nearby customers. But drones can deliver a package 10 kilometres in less time than it takes to drive a car five kilometres, so the effective range doubles."

The study found deliveries via battery-powered drones were up to 90 per cent cheaper than traditional delivery methods, which could save ACT businesses up to $12 million.

The company is now conducting a series of "pop up" events where a drone is on display for passers-by to inspect and ask questions.

At the one in marketplace in Gunghalin on Thursday, there was a steady stream of interested people. Most were neither favourable nor unfavourable but genuinely curious.

Dylan Hekt Woodrow inspects the drone in Gunghalin. Photo: Steve Evans

Dylan Hekt Woodrow inspects the drone in Gunghalin. Photo: Steve Evans

Wing chief executive James Ryan Burgess told Fairfax Media and the people who stopped by at the Gunghalin event that the study highlighted how beneficial drone deliveries could be to a small businesses' bottom line.

"We're excited about the expanded range and the better service [in Canberra's northern suburbs] but also how we can help small business make more income," Mr Burgess said.

Mr Burgess on Thursday provided new details about the Wing's ongoing trial in Bonython, which has attracted constant criticism from residents concerned about noise, invasion of privacy and a perceived lack of oversight from government and regulators.

About 160 households have signed up to use the service, which has completed approximately 2000 deliveries.

Mr Burgess said no crashes had been reported during the Bonython trial, however there had been two instances in which the aircraft had been forced to undertake unscheduled landings. Both occurred on private property, including one house's driveway.

"What is programmed into the system is that, worst case, if the aircraft determines that it would be more safe to do so then it acts what we call a 'contigency landing'," Mr Burgess said.

"It is just a soft, slow landing which will allow one of our team to go and retrieve it. So even in the worst case circumstance, the aircraft is always able to operate under control."

Mr Burgess said Wing was constantly refining its aircraft, starting with technology to make them quieter.

He expected Wing's new base in Mitchell to be established in early 2019, with deliveries to commence in Gungahlin, Palmerston, Grace, Harrison and Franklin shortly after, subject to approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The launch will run concurrently with an ACT Assembly inquiry into household drone deliveries, which will investigate the Bonython trial, the possible economic benefits and environmental impacts of the technology.