What is a delivery drone?
Before we talk about how the delivery drone works, it is essential to know what a delivery drone is. While most of us know that a delivery drone is an automated gadget used to deliver consignments to customers, not many would know they are used during the last lap of the delivery process.
Delivery drones are usually capacitated to carry lightweight packages for delivery. Design-wise, they generally have 4 to 8 propellers and rechargeable batteries. They are either operated remotely from a distribution centre with operators overlooking the drone flight or controlled by artificial intelligence.
What is drone delivery?
Now that we know what a delivery drone is, we should talk about what drone delivery is. For a long time, we have heard about how contactless delivery can work wonders, but it took a pandemic like COVID-19 to show that this delivery mechanism can indeed be very helpful with the help of drones. Drone delivery is the best way to distribute goods and transport packages while decreasing human-to-human contact.
As we know, delivery drones were created to spike efficiency while reducing human dependency on transporting goods and packages. The path to their acceptance was not very smooth. There were rifts, and commercial regulations also spoilt sports. However, the U.S. government has permitted drone deliveries by allowing the UPS Flight Forward program to distribute prescription medicine in the country areas.
This is good news for retailer giants like Walmart and Amazon, as they expect that government regulations will soon allow commercial distribution. Walmart, however, poses a threat to Amazon since Walmart is much bigger than Amazon in terms of the network across the U.S.
The importance of drone delivery is that Walmart has filed for more patents than Amazon. On the other hand, Amazon has developed a program known as “Prime Air,” which includes a fleet of drones called octocopters that will transport and deliver packages weighing 5 pounds or less within a 7.5-mile radius.
How Does Drone Delivery Work?
Drone delivery is a relatively new concept, and there are a lot of aspects that need to be taken care of. No one is absolutely clear about how the drone delivery system will work out in the coming years. However, one thing is certain: drone delivery will always be the best alternative for the last-mile delivery system.
From the customer satisfaction perspective, the last leg is always the most important part of the delivery system. It is also the most inefficient and costly process for package carriers.
In the current process, the package carrier transport, which is mostly trucks, has to stop at all the destination addresses, deliver the package, and make a move forward. In some cases, if the addressee is not at home, the delivery is not made, and the delivery operation is repeated the next day. This is done to ensure that the parcel is handed over to the intended recipient and a proper acknowledgement is received.
Companies like Amazon and FedEx have their own delivery robots that they are using to test the viability of the process. While FedEx-owned robots are used to deliver parcels to customers, Amazon is testing them in a different way. What Amazon does is send their robots to pick up parcels from customers. This way, the robots reduce the time-span for delivery and pick-up, and they act as the best alternative to delivery vehicles for the last mile of customer interaction points.
Drone delivery is similar to how robots function. For example, in the case of UPS, it partnered with a drone technology company called Matternet for the movement of prescription medicine samples, including organ and blood samples. Based on a doctor’s sample requirements, a drone picks up the medicines from the origin and delivers them to the destination.
The movement of medicine and other related samples in WakeMed, Carolina, took more than 30 minutes in a normal scenario since the campus is huge. With the help of drone delivery, they could complete the activity within 3 minutes. This was the first truly successful drone delivery that generated revenue.
The future looks bright for the drone delivery system. The final mile delivery mechanism will change drastically once the drones are integrated into the delivery mechanism.
Think about the way Amazon would use drone delivery for their delivery services. As per the normal process, Amazon’s delivery system would deliver the parcel to the fulfilment center nearest to the destination address. From there, the drones would carry the parcel to the address. It could be possible that these fulfilment centers would turn into superstores in the future, from where drone delivery would be operated.
Having discussed how drone delivery works, it is also important to know the economics behind the functioning of drone delivery.
The Pros And Cons Of Drone Delivery
When we talk about drone delivery, we discuss the last-mile delivery system. However, this system of delivery is inefficient for a couple of reasons. The customer orders a few parcels, and the cost per delivery is very high. Drone delivery would fail to address these problems.
At present, you can use the drone to deliver one parcel at a time. It means the drone would have to make multiple journeys to deliver. However, if you use a delivery vehicle, there would be multiple stops in the same delivery journey. Thus, drone delivery would always be expensive and, in turn, eat up the company’s profits.
The plus side of drone delivery is that drones are battery-powered devices. They have a lesser influence on the environment than trucks running on diesel. This way, drones can be an excellent replacement for trucks for the last-mile delivery. Having said that, drones require energy for battery charging. Battery charging could lead to carbon emissions in areas where natural fuel derives electric power.
Finally, there is the noise component. Drones produce sounds at frequencies that can harm people. A commercial drone produces noise between 75 dB and 90 dB, above the same sound levels.
- Clean delivery of parcels
- The speed of delivery increases
- The parcel transit is safe
- The cost of drone delivery is very high
- The noise produced by drones are above the normal sound levels
- There is a risk of privacy breach
It isn’t surprising that many companies, particularly in the retailing industry, are open to this idea of speedy delivery. What’s more, it is difficult to argue about the demerits of drone delivery as a mode of “unmanned and contactless delivery system,” given the world we are in.
With the increasing demand for consumer products and limited delivery options, the future of drone delivery for the last mile looks bright, irrespective of the drawbacks it has to offer. After all, who can guarantee the merits of any system of delivery?