The Future of Logistics

drones used in logisticsLogistics technological advances

Logistics is not an area which is often synonymous with technological advances, but in recent years the industry has been forging ahead. The most exciting development in the world of deliveries is the prospect of unmanned drones—small helicopters which could deliver packages less than 30 minutes after purchase. Although it sounds more like something from a science-fiction novel, the basic technology is already here: in fact, the first test flights have already been made! However, the process is hardly ready to implement entirely, and before we leap headfirst into such a scheme, we must first consider the practicality of it.

What are the drawbacks of the delivery drones?

One of the current drawbacks is the weight limit. Currently the maximum weight that an Octocopter can carry is 5lbs (2.3kg): although Amazon claims that this covers 86% of the products they deliver, this is a misleading statistic. 86% of their products does not mean 86% of their deliveries, and orders of more than one product at a time could cause difficulties for their drone delivery system. This number also discounts products of an awkward shape and size which, despite being within the applicable weight bracket, would not qualify for drone delivery. The process is by no means a perfect one, and has a lot of kinks to be amended before it can be put into place.

The main concern, however, is not with efficiency, but with safety. Obviously, the drones in question are unmanned, meaning that their flight has to be pre-programmed to reach the required destination. Of course this autopilot technology is hardly new as aircraft have been using it to make safe journeys around the globe for decades. The difference lies in the fact that such crafts never have to fly through heavily populated urban areas, and this is where the greatest risk is posed by the system. With nobody manually operating the machines, there is always a chance that they could drop their payload, not only damaging the purchased goods, but potentially harming innocent civilians. Furthermore, the craft itself could (for many reasons) end up in turmoil—its energy supply could fail or run out causing it to fall from the sky, or the onboard navigation system could become corrupted leading to either a collision or a misplaced delivery.

In the US, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had previously ruled that companies such as Amazon were not allowed to use these “model aircrafts” to deliver goods, but the decision is being appealed. Amazon are currently in the process of developing their technology to make it safer, faster, and more reliable, whilst petitioning the FAA’s decision—after all, they have already granted over 1400 permits to local enforcement, giving them the right to use similar machinery in the same environments.

The future of drone deliveries, and their impact on the logistics world as a whole, is hardly certain, but at the current rate of development, it seems foolish to think that this is a dead-end. We will surely be seeing more of this revolutionary technology in the next few years.


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