Drone this, drone that, drones with claws, pizza by drone, hell even burritos by drone. Drones are still bang on-trend in the logistics world as delivery companies everywhere grapple with the technology, the practicalities and indeed the law in an attempt to make mass drone delivery viable. We were even giving one away on our eCommerce Expo stand at the beginning of October (shout-out to our winners at Specsavers!).
So just how realistic is it that we’ll soon be seeing swarms (or perhaps flocks?) of drones delivering our parcels? Well we think that companies need to be a little braver in their development of the technology in order to make this a reality. Here’s why we think it’s time to stop droning on about drones and just get doing.
THE PROBLEM WITH DRONES
Drone delivery faces obvious hurdles. Issues of weight, size and safe landing spots; how to prevent abuse, theft and ensure customer safety; and the practical element of what hundreds of machines flying around, potentially into each other, would look like. These are all concerns of the supply chain and logistics industry, flirting with the concept. And that’s before you even get to gaining permission from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority. Yet with eCommerce heavyweight Amazon partnering with the UK government, announced in July, and Google also being issued with a patent for drone delivery to “receptacles” back in January, the legalities of drone delivery could soon be ironed out and the use of drones to deliver packages be realised.
FLYING OVER HURDLES
Flying drones to deliver parcels from a hub to customers’ homes could be a cost-effective last mile delivery solution. Drones are inexpensive. The ability for consumers to determine their own delivery times, for example, powered through an app, could be revolutionary for the industry and would suit the convenience that consumers now demand. Tracking your parcel delivery, Uber-style, as it flies its way to wherever you want it dropping off would be a game-changer and one that people will very soon come to expect as standard. If I can track my cab, I want to be able to track my parcels. An interactive, on-demand parcel delivery service is the future. But we need to make it happen.
An extension to this would be the ability to use unmanned, dark-storage units for goods. Parcels could then be distributed from these hubs via a fleet of drones, meaning road transportation would still very much have its place in the supply chain. Drones would only replace the final mile. The ultimate benefits? Dramatically reduced costs and a 24 hour operation. This would afford customers with the ultimate in convenience.
Despite the naysayers pooh-poohing the potential for drone delivery, it’s obvious the technology is rapidly developing, making steps towards this becoming a reality. Last month Mercedes unveiled a prototype autonomous delivery van with a drone launcher on its roof. The concept is similar- with drones operating from a van hub. Yet with this avenue there remain limitations on space within the van.
For those brave enough, developing drone delivery will be the next step in the Uberfication of everything. The question that’s left is when?