A distributed route network planning method with congestion pricing for drone delivery services in cities

Xinyu HE, Lishuai LI*, Yanfang MO, Jianxiang HUANG, S. Joe QIN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based commercial services, exemplified by drone delivery, have captured wide interest in tech companies, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. Structured route-based UAV operations have been implemented for traffic management of UAVs in support of commercial delivery services in cities. Yet, its essence, multi-path planning with constraints is not well solved in the existing literature. Centralized planning might result in inefficiencies and unfairness in the allocation of precious urban airspace to individual routes. This paper describes a novel distributed route planning method to support UAV operations in a high-density urban environment. The method allows each origin–destination (OD) pair to compete against other OD pairs for an optimized route (e.g. shortest distance), coordinated by a system-level evaluation, leading to a network design that maximizes the performance of not only the individual routes but also the entire system. The core concept is the introduction of congestion pricing, a soft constraint to coordinate the allocation of airspace. The method is tested in standard 2D scenarios and compared with other state-of-the-art methods. The results show that (1) the method is able to generate routes with short individual distances as well as occupying the least airspace by the route network; (2) in some complex scenarios, the method is able to find a solution in a short period of time while other state-of-the-art method fails. The method has also been applied to a real urban environment (Mong Kok in Hong Kong) to demonstrate its capability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104536
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Early online date27 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Drone delivery
  • Multi-path planning
  • Route network design
  • Traffic management
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle


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