November 19, 2014
I was standing at an outdoor concert the other night and suddenly something that resembled a mini flying saucer zoomed over my head above. Laden down with red flashing lights, I looked around and waited for everyone to start screaming and shouting ‘UFO’! Ahem…okay so it was late, and it was dark, and I’m sure that a lot of us would mistake a camera drone for a flying saucer- any day. This experience really emphasized the fact that ‘the drone saga’ is only beginning. Let’s take a look at some of the drones that are impacting the supply chain and logistics industry:
E-commerce giant pushes for drone technology
In 2013, Amazon announced that it was launching a drone parcel delivery project to make special deliveries to customers within a 30 minute window. This announcement was soon followed by a video campaign where a drone drops off a package in a family’s suburban driveway. Naturally, residential deliveries will present some form of obstacle to the drone delivery model. What if you live in an apartment building and you need to key in a gate code to enter? Drones aren’t that smart just yet – but the point remains these are all topics that are currently being researched, and I would be pretty confident that a solution will be discovered. According to Colin Guinn, the North American CEO for the drone manufacturer DJI, “A company like Amazon or UPS could have a safe, operational fleet in 18-24 months,” he tells The Verge.
Following suit with drone delivery
Recently DHL announced that they are launching a pilot program in an attempt to explore the efficacy of drone delivery especially with medications and other time-sensitive deliveries. A drone can fly as fast as 40 miles per hour and carry up to 2.6 lbs. It is truly automation at its best, being that everything is controlled from the ground, you are trusting technology to do exactly what it was designed to do. To give you an example of how fast a drone can make a delivery; 7.5 miles can take approximately 20 minutes. For this operation, DHL called it the Juist project because it is based in North Sea island of Juist in Lower Saxony in Germany. They have received permission form the German transport ministry and also air traffic control. The hope would be to use a restricted flight path for parcelcopter deliveries.
The benefits of drones
Besides from the obvious fact that mini helicopters – that can be controlled at ground level and make special deliveries across the country – are pretty cool! There’s so much more – like financial gains that according to FedEx founder Fred Smith, could generate major cost savings. Over at Google, Andy Rubin is the Google engineer heading Google’s efforts to use robots in real-world applications. Real world applications, like package delivery. Rubin told the New York Times that it’s something he’s been considering for a decade, but it only recently has become commercially viable to build automated systems on the scale he envisioned. Drones are less costly than other aircrafts; because they are flown remotely, they are safer and they come with less infrastructure issues.
All these benefits make this technology extremely attractive to supply chain and logistics executives – after all, any technology that can increase efficiency, like the speed of delivery and overall order turn-around will have a dramatic impact on customer satisfaction. All good stuff and definitely something you should keep your eye on.
For more industry trends, and to stay on top of innovations impacting your supply chain …subscribe to the 4SIGHT Insight Blog today!