The suburbs as the test market for delivering prescription medicine via drone

As firms test delivery via drone, one suburb in North Caroline will soon experience how using drones to deliver prescription medicine could work:

Photo by Darrel Und on Pexels.com

Zipline, a leading drone operator, will begin delivering prescription medicines to patients’ homes in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, this year, helping usher in the long-anticipated era of routine drone drops.

Why it matters: Battery-operated drones could satisfy our demand for “instant delivery” in less than 15 minutes, while easing traffic congestion, improving safety and helping the environment…

The trial, which awaits the FAA’s nod, will take place in and around Kannapolis, North Carolina, where Zipline has a distribution center serving nearby hospitals…

A big milestone will occur in a few months when Wing begins drone deliveries in Dallas, its first major metropolitan service area, starting with Walgreens.

Even as this article makes clear that this is already happening in other places, the suburban potential is intriguing for several reasons:

  1. If drones can deliver a lot of goods in suburbia, could this help unlock the hold of driving on suburbia or does it enable people to live even further apart?
  2. How do drones fit in a suburban landscape devoted to private property and proximity to nature? Drones could theoretically be quieter and less obvious than other options yet this could be considered intrusive in a new use of local airspace. Could some local governments ban their use?
  3. I wonder this about delivery possibilities now: how close do distribution centers or drone centers need to be to residential neighborhoods to enable same-day or quicker delivery? Residents like the idea of quicker delivery but having warehouses and distribution centers closer to homes has some limits.

It sounds like these drone deliveries are going to happen and they have the potential to impact suburban life in small – and maybe larger? – ways.

Food delivery services and restaurants aiming for the unsaturated suburban markets

Skift Table suggests the suburbs are ripe for increased restaurant and food delivery activity:

Outside the urban cores, things get interesting. Earnest Research shows that in the rest of the U.S. market, it’s a head-to-head battle between DoorDash (31 percent market share) and Uber Eats (with 30 percent). In third place is Grubhub, coming in at 27 percent…

“Many suburban areas tend to have a larger number of chain restaurants than independent mom and pop restaurants, making it advantageous for Grubhub to offer takeout from these familiar chains to local residents who may not be accustomed to the idea of ordering delivery,” says Katie Norris, Senior Manager of Communications at GrubHub…

But not all restaurants need to be located on Main & Main to succeed, thanks to the ever-expanding reach of digital marketing and social media. And raising capital might also be within closer reach than once thought. “To mitigate high rents, many brands are opening in second-tier locations and that’s very attractive to investors,” says Chad Spaulding, Managing Director at the U.S.-based investment firm Capital Spring. “We spend more of our time seeking low-rent, low-investment type opportunities that provide a value to the consumer that you can count on in tougher times in the wider economy.”

Suburban locations not only fit this bill, they also solve the urban issue of oversaturation. There is simply less competition the farther afield you go. And now, you can actually go further than before. Because Uber Eats drivers and DoorDash dashers can soon be there to meet you — in 30 minutes or less.

There may be less competition and cheaper rents but there are certainly other costs such as increased driving distances to deliver food and finding ways to attract suburbanites to a physical location.

In the long run, it would be interesting to consider what it would take to raise the level of suburban food to that of major cities where awards, interest, and big name chefs seem to be much more common. Does fine dining and innovation in food require a density of restaurants, food workers, and well-heeled customers or could this all come together in some way in the suburbs? Could the suburbs of today who are often interested in developing entertainment and cultural districts really go after high-end and innovative food as a strategy to successfully compete against suburban fast food and chain restaurants?