Flying Drones that deliver packages are here. It is no longer fiction. Amazon, Alphabet (parent of Google) and Uber are starting advanced trials of Drones Delivery in the U.S..
While drones are very similar in concept, technology and application, there are some subtle differences for example:
Amazon’s drone uses a hexagonal design which they claim will give it more stability in flight and has payload of 5 lbs. Alphabet’s wing looks like a plane with a 3.3 lb payload while Uber’s drone is slimmer in design and is the slowest.
What we know about package delivery with drones.
- Flying Speed: Ranges between 35 -70 miles per hour with Alphabet’s being the fastest.
- Flying altitude: Between 200-400 feet.
- Delivery method: Amazon’s will carry the package in a compartment that will open when the drone touches the ground. Alphabet’s Drone never lands, the package is attached to the drone. At the time of delivery, the drone hovers as the packages is lowered and unclipped to make the delivery. Uber’s drones land on top of a waiting Uber eats car that makes the last trip of the delivery.
- Delivery Range: from 3 to 15 miles round trip. This means that a drone can only travel a maximum of 7.5 miles one way before it runs out of battery.
Some obstacles at time of delivery.
Artificial intelligence (Machine Learning) and infrared sensors are uses to help drones navigate the skies and deal with the ever changing environment.
The major obstacles facing drones other than regulatory issues:
- People: Some people will not feel comfortable with drones hovering over. Some might even attempt to destroy them.
- Air Traffic: Drones have to deal with thousands of other drones in Traffic
- Weather patterns from snow to rain which might affect sensors
- Range: having such a short range will limit the distance that a drone can travel.
- Payload: some items cannot be delivered using drones.
The drones are coming and will be part of Order fulfillment but do not expect to see it very soon. A lot of work has to be done. Package Delivery will still depend on the traditional delivery methods and do not expect it to disappear. Some of those companies are investing in drone technology such as UPS who has received clearance to deliver medical supplies in a few cities.
Many 3PL Companies are watching as this technology will impact Logistics Companies. Alphabet, Uber and Amazon will seek the help of several Logistics Providers to use their facilities as a lunching and point for their devices. The drone has to take off from a place that attaches or loads the package and since none of these companies own or operate 10000 warehouses, they will have to outsource some of these services which will benefit others.