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5th January, 2018  

Let the Drones fly!!! Drones and their impact on logistics, globally

By roshan.ramanee@imaginea.com

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The character Q from James Bond movies is super cool. He sits behind a computer and directs the world’s top spy to handle ultra-dangerous missions. And his character is what it is because of the technology. There is this one technology, which is a toy actually, that came in very handy to people like Q and James to complete missions. And that also created a huge ripple in the areas of security, surveillance, photography and cinema. The amazing little toy called Drone.

Drones have created a stamp of their impact on areas as wide as mentioned above. The only other technology that bridged such wide a difference is computers. That said, drones saw users rethink everyday processes. Today, there is not a single filmmaker or a photographer who’d hesitate to try and experiment with aerial shots. Globally, many security forces and public security teams use drones to keep law and order intact. And very interestingly, people even use drones for fishing.  With people coming up with innovative uses for this toy, soon there won’t be a function that can’t happen. But an area Drones can actually make a difference is Logistics and Transport.

Logistics, today, is a rapidly growing market. With people depending globally for trade, logistics is relevant to the market. Nations are building infrastructure to enhance the logistics industry. There is a continuous incline that demands freight transportation on the domestic and international front. With the rise in E-commerce startups, the logistics and freight transportation industry has evolved more than ever before and is still continuing to do so. And with the ever-increasing demand & cost, private firms have to rely on few new trends and technologies which cut down their overall cost and increase efficiency.

Large firms around the globe employ different tech to try and increase their efficiency. The most common technologies: location intelligence coupled with predictive analysis, Optimized flow with better routing and location services. These companies have a large requirement for freight transport for which they either outsource their logistics to a third party logistics firm or have their own fleet of a vehicle for transportation. Due to the heavy burden of cost, most of these private firms keep changing the way they transport their goods.

But with the advent of the Internet of things (IoT), it has already started making a difference with the now available ability to connect to retailers and transportation firms with just a click. Though the Drone delivery idea may seem far-fetched, it is more likely to exist in the next ten years with the regulations put in place. The aerial delivery company Flirtey has plans to introduce the worlds first commercial drones for delivery processes. The student textbook rental service Zookal has planned to use the services Flirtey to deliver parcels directly to a customer.

This is how it will work: Customers will receive a smartphone notification that will enable them to track their package via GPS and receive the parcel directly at an outdoor location. Once the drone reaches the outdoor delivery destination, it hovers and carefully lowers the package through a pulley-like delivery mechanism that is attached to a retractable cord.

Many organizations are beginning to use drones specifically because of its ease of working and high level of interest. Biz world like giants like Amazon and DHL are testing drone-based delivery. DHL recently announced that a successful trial of its ‘parcelcopter’ in the Bavarian community of Reit im Winkl was executed. Together with this and its previous trial of drone delivery to the German island of Juist, the service can now deliver to remote areas that take extra time for cars or trucks to reach. This success has caused the ‘parcelcopter’ to be integrated into DHL’s supply chain.

With the possibility of a new service, countless startups have jumped on the bandwagon to gain publicity and boost sales in this area of function. But there is also the danger of hype that would, in turn, raise false expectations and leave people disappointed. And after the dust settles down, there may be a public backlash against the perceived power of new technology that could substantially influence and alter our everyday lives.

If there is an increase in public services trying to leverage this tech, the traction gained could alter the hype given. Postal operators such as Australia Post, Singapore Post and Swiss Post have reported testing drones.  And if drones could be applied for the greater good of The UPS Foundation, the tech will actually make a difference. The company is said to have invested $800,000 to help a global partnership with Zipline and Gavi to deliver vaccines and blood in Rwanda. The drones are said to make up to 150 deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country.

Today, the variety available in Drones has greatly expanded. And over the last few years and it has become difficult to count the number of the entire range. There are a number of diverse systems that are offered in the market without any universal classification. Some of the build types are: Fixed wing, Tilt wing, Unmanned helicopter and Multicopter. Most of these drones are used today in non-military operations. The drones that use an electric engine add the advantages of being environmentally-friendly and operating without much noise. These are important advantages, especially in densely populated areas. It is relatively inexpensive to charge the battery, but battery weight is a drawback and travel range can be limited by battery capacity. Despite that, these drones will make a difference to delivery management and improve logistical nightmares.

There is this world famous T-Shirt quote that reads “I won’t be impressed with technology until I can download food”. Well taking food out of a computer screen seems more of a CGI composition than reality. Yes, the pizza gets cold by the time it’s stuck in traffic. Or the service is not provided for your area. But now, there is a solution to that and it’s really cool. And getting food or anything delivered by a drone is the best as it can get today. They are in the air already, getting things from place to place. And it’s the future that will have to unravel what’s in store.

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