Distribution: The Promise of Drone Delivery in the Social Sector

In the United States, discussion of delivery drones usually follows stories such as this New York Times piece about Amazon testing drone delivery of packages. Drone delivery also offers hope to public and social sector organizations as well.

Distribution is a pillar of marketing. Equitable and cost-effective distribution is a necessity for marketing social goods and services. Drones hold promise for improving the distribution of goods and services, even social goods. This CBS News story showcases several efforts to employ drones in Africa for distributing vital public and social services in areas lacking other infrastructure such as roads and rail.

Drone Delivery for Healthcare and Disaster Aid

Healthcare is one obvious sector requiring time-critical distribution. A patient’s condition can deteriorate while awaiting test results or medicine delivery hampered by lack of infrastructure.

As stated in the CBS News story, medical deliveries in Rwanda can require weeks. Harsh weather and problems with vegetation can make roads impassable. Drone delivery cuts the time required to just hours. Improving any organization process by 95 percent or more has a transformative effect.

Using drones can also expand the number of tests doctors in remote areas can perform. Often tests are not possible because they can’t be performed on-site and transporting samples to a central lab takes too much time. With drones and cell phones, a doctor can now deliver samples for testing in a couple of hours, and get results by text. This expands the range of care dramatically. That doctor is now more competitive with services available in more developed areas with better infrastructure.

Distribution by drone also holds promise in disaster relief.  Floods, fires, and earthquakes leave roads and bridges destroyed just when there’s increased need to distribute food, medicine, and other supplies.

Drones still face obstacles of availability, reliability, cost, and regulation. Speeding distribution of social goods may help knock down those obstacles and put more drones in the sky.

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