The Dubious Prospects for Cargo-Delivery Drones in Ukraine
As Russian forces besieged Mariupol in recent months, some observers called for using drones to resupply Ukrainian forces and deliver humanitarian aid.
I understand the appeal of humanitarian delivery-by-drone as well as anybody. In 2014, I founded and led an effort to swarm cargo into besieged parts of Syria. Later, I went on to start a successful drone-software development team at the Defense Innovation Unit, where I continued to work closely with the drone industry. On that basis, numerous well-meaning individuals have reached out to me for advice on delivering cargo by drone in Ukraine.
The perspective I offer these entrepreneurs is cold but rooted in hard-won wisdom: Delivery-by-drone is not ready to scale beyond limited experimentation in warzones. Building a scalable delivery paradigm is orders of magnitude more difficult than most people realize. Limited drone deliveries might hold symbolic value, provide valuable learning, and occasionally meet legitimate needs,…