Drone technology itself has been around for quite some time now, but has so far yet to make a real impact on the delivery world. Stories have abounded over the last few years about drones one day being used to send goods and deliveries direct to our doorsteps and warehouses, but again there has yet to be a widespread roll out of such services.
This does then beg the question of whether or not drones really are something that we will one day see being used in the world of logistics and transport.
Drones: In focus
The term ‘drone’ in this context is defined by IoT Agenda as ‘an unmanned aircraft…formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASes)…essentially a drone is a flying robot’. These can be remotely controlled but can also be programmed to fly to destinations autonomously.
You may have seen these being flown for entertainment purposes as they can be bought by the public to be piloted in designated open spaces. There are also ‘drone racing’ competitions that are proving to be popular.
The belief behind using drones for deliveries is that they can provide a fast, direct route for transporting goods, which could theoretically reduce the amount of vehicles on our roads, cut down on emissions and streamline delivery services as a whole.
Recent commercial examples
Leisure use aside, if you carry out a little research into the use of drones in the commercial world, you will find plenty of recent examples of them being used. This 2017 post from TechWorld lists a number of different examples of companies across the sectors using drones in some form.
The article lists several delivery companies though which have trialled their usage in their operations. A notable example from their list is UPS, who ‘began testing drones to make commercial deliveries’ back in 2016. What seems to be the prevailing message though from these 22 companies is that their use of drones is very much experimental, or something they’re planning to unroll at a later date.
Two noteworthy examples of proposed uses of drones in transport and logistics can be found in this post from Business Insider and this from ship-technology. The former reveals how online retail giant Amazon is to open ‘a new research facility for its drone operations near Paris’ where a team will ‘build the company’s own air traffic control system for its drones’. The latter details maritime industry group Wilhelmsen Ship Service’s transport plans to ‘start delivering agency essential to vessels via drone’ working out of ‘an undisclosed port’.
These are just few examples that can certainly make the case for saying that there are major developments for the use of drones in the pipeline.
So, to answer the titular question, with the amount of companies – and indeed leading companies – already looking at using drones, it does seem a safe bet that they will one day be something we view as being as commonplace as the delivery vehicles we are so used to now.
It can be argued that part of the problem, and the delay in this, is the effect these new technologies could have on the wider aspects of transport and logistics. Everything from staffing, to warehouse management, health and safety and even security may need to be reviewed to accommodate the use of drones.
However, once the testing is complete and supply chain processes are refined our goods could be taking to the skies – just how long this will take though is in the hands of the corporations investing in them.