Ben Thomas

Ben Thomas

Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2663

Judy Zhu

Judy Zhu

Associate Director, National Valuation

t: +44 207 182 2683

In the last post ‘How Can Drones Impact’, we looked at the impact by drones on warehouse locations and design. In this post, we are going to explore the potential challenges for the logistics industry when it comes to adopting drones.


One of the challenges of adopting drones widely in the logistics industry is the restriction imposed by regulations. In most countries, the use of drones is regulated. However, the regulations themselves vary widely across countries and jurisdictions. There are broadly four levels of restriction as can be seen below:

No regulation

In countries like Indian and Qatar, our investigation into publicly available material suggests there is no regulation specifically on the use of drones. Without definitely clarity it could mean there are no restrictions on the use of drones, however conversely it could mean that drones are generally not permitted by existing laws.

Permission/Registration required for certain drones

For some countries, permission or registration with air traffic authority is required only when drones are above certain weight or when flight is above certain height, regardless of the purpose. These countries include Brazil, Austria, Russia, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, South Korea and Switzerland. The maximum weight without a permission or registration varies from 250g to 30kg. The maximum height to fly a drone without permission or registration varies from 10m to 120m.

Permission/Registration required for all commercial use

All commercial use of drones requires permission or registration in some countries, such as China, Singapore, Israel, United States of America, United Kingdom and France. In most of these countries, a pilot licence is required to operate drones for commercial purposes.  In some countries, any drone flying outside approved areas requiring a level of permission or registration, no matter it’s for leisure or commercial use. Generally, there are restrictions on maximum heights for flying drones even after permission is granted. The maximum height restriction for most of the countries span from 100m to 150m.

Drones are banned

In Saudi Arabia, the use of drones is banned.

Other general regulations on use of drones

Most of the countries share some general restrictions on the use of drones in the following areas:

  • The distance between drones and airports/military facilities is restricted
  • The distance and height between drones and crowd is restricted
  • Operating drones within visual line of sight
  • Following local privacy regulations when using drones with cameras

As we can see from the regulations above, the general intention of regulations is to ensure the safety of the general public and wider air traffic.

Support System

Before we can adopt drones into the logistics network, an industrial scale support system will be required.

This would need to include a ground-based system to enable drone delivery. As we mentioned in the last post, logistics warehouses will have to change their locations and designs. The operation of lorries and trains may change to adapt also. The changes and the speed at which they are implemented will depend on when logistics operators and warehouse owners start to consider using drones in the logistics network.

Drones will be controlled remotely, so a robust and reliable networking system will need to be sufficiently advanced to cater for the live communication between drones, warehouses and ground transportation. 5G connectivity will help, but the roll-out of the 5G network in the UK isn’t set to begin until 2020, while countries such as South Korea, China, Japan and the US plan to roll out in late 2018 or early 2019.

Finally, underpinning all the various support systems is a human element. We will need a large pool of IT and engineering talent to support the development of hardware and software capable of delivering a fully functional drone network. The challenge right now is that the number of students choosing to study Computer Science and Engineering is in decline. Additionally, the unemployment rate for Computer Science students remains the highest among all the graduates. This could mean Computer Science students are not equipped with practical skills required by the growing market demand.


Despite all the challenges, there is enthusiasm to adopt drones in the logistics network. To maximise the commercial value within individual national legal frameworks and to establish support systems, drone technology will need to be improved.

Examples of this drive for improvement can be seen at Animal Dynamics Ltd, who are taking inspiration from how the biomechanics of the animal kingdom have evolved in designing innovative drones. Skyports Ltd are currently taking unused commercial roof space and exploring if specific drone landing pads can be installed to help service consumers and improve income for landlords. Both presented at CBRE’s ‘The Power of Three’ logistics conference.

Humanity has always created new technologies to tackle challenges throughout history to improve and progress civilizations. This will not stop now and current challenges to the adoption of drones will, in time, be overcome.

In the next blog post, we will switch focus from flying drones to autonomous vehicles on the ground.

If you are interested in more details of this report or our other logistics reports, please contact Ben Thomas, Director of CBRE National Valuation – Logistics & Distribution, or Judy Zhu, Associate Director of CBRE National Valuation.

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