With the latest technological advancements in autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) and evolving legislation, the use of drones has emerged as a viable and innovative business solution for last-mile delivery.
Drones could drastically decrease labor costs and have been hyped as a potential disruptor to the parcel delivery industry. A drone has competitive advantages over conventional last-mile delivery using a truck, including lower costs, shorter delivery times, greater reach in areas with weak infrastructure, and lower CO2 emissions.
There are various operating models, from a drone-based last-mile delivery system where customers are served by drones (no trucks) to a shared truck-drone delivery model where customers can be performed by either trucks/drones.
Much research has been carried out in the last years on the potential use of drones for parcel delivery, principally in logistic optimization. This post will discuss the pros and cons of last-mile delivery drones.
Pros of delivery drones
Deliver products quickly: A delivery drone’s function is to offer services for quickly delivering goods to remote locations. These unmanned aerial vehicles can be programmed to provide particular goods from their base of operations to a specified location, such as the customer’s address. When customers need their goods delivered quickly and undamaged, this service can offer a bulk transfer of materials.
Improved time management: Consumers and the workers involved in the process gain from increased efficiency when delivery drones provide services for an organization. It enables people to concentrate on other crucial components of the purchase process. If the addresses submitted through a shopping cart are accurate, this service could potentially have a lower error margin thanks to accurate locating programs. Faster delivery of goods to customers; increased business turnover rates, which boost productivity.
Save energy: A delivery drone produces significantly fewer emissions than a standard package delivered by a traditional method. Because warehouses are conveniently located in most urban areas, airplanes would no longer need airplanes to transport some goods, delivery trucks to provide home delivery and other fossil fuel costs. Because there are fewer logistics to complete, shipping and handling charges are decreased. There might be fewer job openings due to this process, but there would be more jobs in the drone maintenance and programming field.
Save time: With the help of delivery drones, businesses can redirect their human capital toward imaginative, cutting-edge projects that will help them grow their product or service offerings. Employees will have more time to take care of the business’ routine tasks while ensuring that their customers receive a higher-quality product. This technology enables spending more time and money on concepts that may one day change the world instead of repetitive tasks that artificially keep production levels low.
Safer delivery: Due to their activities on the road, drivers who deliver packages to a customer’s home assume some risk. There is always a possibility that they could get into an accident, run out of fuel, or experience delays because of roadwork. Sometimes, delivery personnel must work in hazardous conditions, like a flight of slick stairs. Delivery drones make the system safer by taking many of these variables out of the picture. There is always the chance that a drone will crash or unintentionally release its package, but this risk is seen as an advantage from a comparative standpoint.
Higher efficiency: When a customer orders a product, delivery drones can navigate to a specific address automatically, thanks to GPS technologies. This technology has a higher success rate in the same task than humans. Even though some homes will never be accurately mapped by these systems (for example, a GPS guide telling a user to turn right would direct them into a building), this problem will eventually be solved as the technology advances.
Cons of delivery drones
Expensive: A significant investment in the company’s infrastructure is necessary to cover the cost of incorporating delivery drones into the company’s services. Due to this, only a few sizable companies are considering using this technology. For a drone that can make an accurate delivery, the average cost can reach $500. Even though smaller drones might cost around $50, it would take tens of thousands of them (along with the necessary programming staff) for a company like Amazon to make this idea a reality.
Battery defects: According to the Amazon Prime Air website, the company is “committed to realizing our vision of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less.” Our current battery technologies are one of the factors requiring such a quick turnaround. The typical delivery drone’s power requirements could result in power loss in as little as 20 minutes. That might not be long enough to allow the drone to return to the company’s headquarters or to deliver the package to its intended location.
Higher risk of defects: Any vehicle we use to ship goods across the globe carries the risk of having a flaw that alters the way a business operates. Unpredictable breakdowns of aircraft can occur on a runway. Delivery vans might not want to start. All companies that manage their logistics are subject to this risk. The risk of failure for delivery drones using current technology is higher than for more conventional methods. Industrial drones have demonstrated that their systems are susceptible to collapse within the first year of use. One of these flaws during delivery operations would mess up the company’s logistics, increase budget expenses, and possibly lead to other problems.
Easily stolen: Disconnecting a delivery drone’s power system does not require much expertise. Businesses must also deal with this risk if they want to use this express delivery option. Anyone with a preferred e-commerce platform could order a small item and remove the equipment whenever possible. Once this happens, it might be difficult for the company to have any way to recall its goods. If this service becomes a reality, regulations and laws will probably need to be updated to consider this risk.
Privacy risk: A camera on a drone could be used by Amazon and other businesses to deliver packages, among other things. Supervisors would be notified via streaming video sent to the business’s headquarters if delivery had been made. Future thefts may be less likely with the aid of this technology. The drawback of using a drone-mounted camera is that it may capture images of people and properties unrelated to the transaction. People who are caught in this stream would not have given their consent. Here too, laws and regulations would need to be updated.
Property damage: Drone deliveries are not a perfect technological advancement. They have a good chance of accidentally damaging the house while doing their duty. Installing drone landing pads at a secure location on a homeowner’s property would be the only solution to this problem. This technological solution might have an RFID signal that turns on only when delivery is authorized, which might help to consolidate the various data streams that are currently available.