Not that long ago drones were considered an ’emerging technology’ with some, mostly unfounded, concerns amongst the public about their purposes. However recent uses of drones, including delivering charity aid or in photography for much-loved wildlife documentaries, have seen public perceptions of drones change.

The potential usage for drone technology is endless. Drones have the ability to work across a variety of sectors, mastering spaces that humans can’t reach with relative ease. But it’s in logistics and fulfilment where the biggest possibilities lie.


Drones & logistics

Businesses are now implementing drones as part of their day to day logistics, usually falling into three categories: transport, inventory, and surveillance. For transport, there are obvious choices including delivery and fulfilment, monitoring operational processes and improving consumer journeys.

Drones are already being implemented in distribution centres and warehouses, becoming a fast alternative to moving smaller items and dealing with palletisation. In regards to surveillance, obvious uses involve utilising their camera functions and in locating and logging business stock.

According to PwC, delivery drones could become part of standard business practices by 2030 and growing drone technology in the transport and logistics sector could drive a GDP boost of £1.2bn. It’s estimated that with increased productivity drones could create savings in the region of £2.8bn.

Since 2012, VCs have invested $1.5 billion in drone commercial startups.  Industrial drone fleets in Europe and the United States could be in the region of £50 billion by 2050 according to consulting firm BCG, featuring more than 1 million drone units. They also believe that sectors with the most value will be drones services, such as delivery and data collection and improving operational efficiencies.

Here’s 3 examples of how drones are changing logistics…


UPS & Zipline: Aid management drones

As one of the larger delivery and fulfilment, UPS experimented with drones before considering adopting them into their day to day operations. UPS started small, working with a few innovative partners on passion projects. UPS teamed up with Zipline, Rwanda, and Gavi Alliance to deliver vaccines and blood supplies to remote areas.

Zipline tested drones on San Francisco farmland with light-weight packages before looking at larger scale drone engineering. Weight of parcel continues to be an issues for drones and as the technology continues to grow and mature, we’re sure we’ll see bigger and bigger drones implemented into fulfilment operations.



Amazon: Consumer delivery drones

Amazon has been a consistent leader in eCommerce and they expect to continue market domination when it comes to delivery.  They originally announced their Prime Air delivery service in 2013 and have since continued to test various drones styles and logistic options for delivering to consumers.

At Amazon’s re:MARS conference in June, the company announced that their latest drones will be able to fly up to 15 miles. The drones will also be able to deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes. Between 75% and 90% of Amazon deliveries fall into this weight bracket and therefore could technically be delivered by drone.



Flytbase: Drone software development

Without automation, connectivity and data analysis, there isn’t much point using drones.  Software and technologies need to be developed in line with hardware technologies and an increasing drone software companies are appearing in what could be a very lucrative market.

Flytbase is a good example of software and application development to support logistics. They are an enterprise drone automation company, working primarily with autonomous drones for the digital transformation of logistics.


Beyond logistics

Logistics and delivery sectors are now implementing drone systems at an unprecedented rate. Whilst this sector has embraced drones with the biggest expectations and the most to gain, their learnings have paved the way for drones on a broader scale with further positive economic and societal impacts.

Drones are now being utilised in agriculture for field and crop monitoring and in forestry, tackling wild fires and mapping woodland scaling. They have become crucial in environmental sectors, with aerial tracking of landscape change and safeguarding endangered species by identifying poachers and locating animals. Drones are also a fantastic resource in crisis management, assisting emergency response, delivering aid and supporting search and rescue missions.

With new markets realising the potential of drone technologies and venture capitalists consistently keen to invest, in the next five to ten years drones could become a common sighting in your neighbourhood.


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