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Major Couriers Explore Shipping with Drones
Imagine a drone delivering your next online order or your business goods?
Over the last few years, the world’s leading carriers, UPS, FedEx/TNT, and DHL have been exploring innovative technologies in order to provide cost reduction, improve efficiency and lower carbon emissions of fuel-based transportation for moving goods.
This search has led to the carriers investigate the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) (drone), for suppling the courier industry last-mile deliveries that save money and cut delivery times.
UPS and Drones
UPS has invested millions into researching and testing delivering packages by drones. Some of this research has included UPS flying Drones over large bodies of water, delivering humanitarian supplies using UAV’s in Africa and making deliveries with Drones in remote areas in the United States.
This investment resulted in an announcement from UPS in October 2019 that it had been granted part 135 certification by the FAA to operate the first drone airline in the United States. The FAA certification allows UPS to run an unlimited number of Drones. UPS has created a company specifically for deliveries by UAV’s called UPS Flight Forward.
UPS Flight Forward will be a service geared towards the healthcare industry, with a focus at present to delivering medicines to hospitals, with the potential for the service to start delivering to businesses and residential customers.
FedEx and Drones
FedEx has partnered with Google-owned drone delivery company Wing Aviation, in testing package deliveries using Drones to residential customers. The pilot program allows people in Christiansburg, Virginia the choice to have their package delivered by drone. The company hopes that by using Drones it could help to optimise FedEx’s delivery system and lower costs for customers.
The drones are designed to deliver time-sensitive packages and to improve last-mile delivery times.
WHAT ARE THE pros and cons of using DRONES FOR COURIER DELIVERIES?
- The use of drones allows goods to be delivered to virtually any location.
- Drones would cut delivery times and improve speed of goods reaching customers.
- Drones could improve delivery efficiency by reducing the risk of human error.
- More environmentally friendly and less carbon emissions compared to vans, trucks, and aeroplanes.
- The use of drones would save the courier industry potentially billions in labour, fuel and transportation costs.
- Drones have a limited travel range, due to their battery capacity.
- Risk of property damage or theft of goods due to accidents and drone failure.
- Airport disruption - In recent times, drones have been known to cause problems around airports, causing flights to be cancelled.
- If drones were to be used globally for deliveries, this could possibly cause problems with air traffic control centres, managing and regulating virtually hundreds or thousands of drones in the sky.
- Misuse - There is a possibility that illegal, dangerous and hazardous items could be transported via drones without the knowledge of customs and the government.
- Changing systems to a robotic form of labour would impact on jobs in the logistics industry and would lead to unemployment.
- Due to the size of a drone, they currently can only carry small light-weight items.
DHL and Drones
DHL has been working with Chinese Drone manufacturer Ehang to create a drone delivery service in China. The delivery service covers an area of 4 miles around DHL’s service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province.
The drones are built to carry cargo weighing up to 5kg and take off and land using intelligent cabinets, which have been designed for the loading and processing of DHL drone shipments.
The intelligent cabinets are static devices found at the DHL’s service centre, that connects with off-site systems and allows packages when placed into the cabinet to be automatically scanned and sorted.
The coming years should see an increase in the use of drone technology by shipping firms, as a way to lower costs and beat the competition. The world awaits this exploration with anticipation, who knows what the future holds for shipping technology.