While the military and consumer applications of UAVs are well established, drones are now making rapid inroads in supply chain operations. Drone Delivery is indeed a big leap in the field of supply chain and logistics as more and more companies jump onto the automation bandwagon by adopting autonomous technologies to gain a competitive edge, but as excited as we forget our parcels delivered by the air drones, it still has a long way to go!
While different experts on the subject describe the drone technology in their own ways, substantially, drones are flying robots, capable of being controlled remotely and even can fly freely through software-driven flight plans followed by embedded systems. A drone works in concoction with GPS and sensors installed in the system. The functions or the ways following which a drone works can be conceived well by understanding its technological abundance. In order to attain flight, drones consist of power source which can be battery or any other kind of adaptable fuel, propellers, rotors and most importantly the frame. It is the frame of drone that comes in different size, shape and even weight as all this three components of frame, more precisely, deal with the functioning of drone and its use in various industries. Drone’s weight is carefully maintained on the ground that it should be light in weight in order to enhance maneuverability during flight. A controller is remotely used by an operator to navigate the drone, launch and even to land it.
Drones in logistics
The logistics industry holds assenting stance towards adopting new technology to uplift the industry standard followed by productivity. The use of drones in logistics in order to transport goods by air is a favourable reason to back the aforesaid statement. The essence of drones in logistics is that it is capable of transporting goods by air, can be used for inventory management in warehouses while ensuring faster delivery of goods. However, the use of drones in logistics industry is opening a new door to productivity for the industry itself.
Experts in the domain have already started working on the projects and opined that the adoption of this technology will have a potent impact on the industry, both in terms of quality and productivity. The benefits of adopting the drone technology are defined while considering various dimensions of the logistics industry. Here are the aspects that are often taken into consideration.
- Drones can ensure faster delivery of goods and this is seen as an impact factor for the industry as delivering goods at the right time is often a challenge in logistics industry.
- Reaching remote and difficult areas is a topic of discussion in the logistics industry. Now, companies are looking towards drones technology for transporting goods to remote areas.
- Another beneficial aspect is that drones can function around the clock, with no shift involving heavy physical works, only operators can manage it well simply by working with remotes to navigate the drones accordingly.
- Starting from storing goods in warehouses to transporting goods to the end consumer, distribution in the logistics industry requires a huge investment. The use of drones in transportation can reduce distribution costs.
The list of the companies who have adopted technology is increasing; many are busy developing a favorable system for operating drones for the purpose, while E-commerce giants like Amazon have already taken the flight.
It was in the year 2013, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled its futuristic plan of delivering goods by air; through drones. Later on, the company launched Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service in development by Amazon. It is expected to begin operations in selected cities soon. It can be mentioned here that Amazon triumphantly delivered a Prime Air parcel to Cambridge, England. The company built a Prime Air fulfillment center in the Cambridge area, a video record of which it posted on its social media profile was widely circulated. Amazon’s this step is seen as setting strategy for a new age technology in logistics sector.
Last year, in October, United Parcel Service (UPS) received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a fleet of drones, giving it broad privileges to expand unmanned package delivery. The certification will allow UPS to use multiple drones to deliver health care supplies within federal regulations and to fly drones beyond the visual line of sight, according to a statement from the FAA.
In Southeast Asia, use of drones technology is becoming prevalent and companies of Chinese origin are active in the race. JD.com, China’s largest retailer announced last year about the accomplishment of Indonesia’s first government approved drone flight. It was indeed a test flight, where the drone flew from Jagabita Village, Parung Panjang to MIS Nurul Falah Leles Elementary School in order to deliver books and backpacks to students.
Logistics companies abroad have already tested drones in warehouses which are closed spaces. Geodis, the logistics arm of SNCF (the French national railway), has partnered with Delta Drone, a French drone-making company, to develop a fully-automated drive for its large warehouse. Geodis has already conducted a two-year trial with Delta Drone, which has a stake in another company that trains drone pilots. The drones – flying in large warehouses – will be be able to provide data on a real-time basis, at non-working hours. Geodis plans to use the drones globally this year to automate five warehouses.
Last year, DHL Express, a leading international courier and delivery service, collaborated with Chinese drone manufacturer EHang. The goal was to launch a drone delivery solution that gear last-mile delivery challenges in urban parts of China.
In India, Mahindra Logistics, which has done trials using drones at one of its warehouses, is awaiting regulatory approvals before it starts using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to improve the accuracy of the inventory and lower labour cost. The move comes at a time when warehouses are getting increasingly bigger and logistics companies are trying out newer technology to offer better services to their customers.
Besides, food delivery companies Zomato, Swiggy and Dunzo, medical delivery providers Zipline and Redwing, and large enterprises like Tata Advanced Systems Limited and Honeywell had applied to conduct long-range, or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), drone experiments. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is taking steps on the experiments.
Zipline, a California based logistics company is reportedly bringing its drones to India in order to fill the gap of access to medical supplies in remote parts of India. It is estimated that this can let millions people to get the drones delivery services.
Collectively, various companies all over the world are busy in making the next big step called ‘delivering goods by air’ to the end consumer successful. However, there are issues and factors that need to be dealt perfect in all the ways possible. The issues of high cost drones, lack of skilled operators, smooth air traffic, cyber security and even legal validation are standing as the major challenges. Once tackled well, the road to a new dawn in logistics industry will be more prevalent. The sky is literally the limit!