drone delivery package future

Five years is a lifetime in the world of technology, but maybe you remember how Jeff Bezos turned the supply chain world upside down in December 2013.

That’s when he dropped a bombshell on 60 minutes, walked correspondent Charlie Rose and his production team “into a mystery room at the Amazon offices and revealed a secret R&D project: ‘Octocopter’ drones that will fly packages directly to your doorstep in 30 minutes.”

Faster than you can say “same day delivery,” drones were the buzz word du jour at supply chain conferences, much like RFID following the infamous Walmart mandate about a decade earlier.

Applications

Organisations are beginning to adopt drones in the first phase of supply chain management: obtaining raw materials. Drones are also used in mining, prospecting, and land surveying applications. In farming and agriculture, UAVs are used to inspect plant health, photo-log plant growth, and map crop yields. Drones are also testing soil to help optimise water content and fertiliser usage, with the intent of improving crop yields.

Drone use in manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution facilities is expected to rise in the next five years, aiding the work-in-process inventory stage of supply chain management. UAVs promise to enhance safety and security as well as promote overall efficiency. For example, drones with cameras can “walk the perimeter” of facilities, seeing areas an ordinary security camera might not reach. Inside of facilities, drones can perform safety inspections, perform maintenance and repair functions like fixing a leaky roof, or fly across a campus to retrieve a forgotten tool – all of which could potentially reduce work hours.7

In warehousing, developers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say UAVs are the best new way of tracking inventory anonymously. Using RFID, QR-codes, and IoT, drones can take physical inventory. Walmart Stores, for example, is currently testing drones for that purpose. Drones can move small items quickly, reducing the need for forklifts or possibly replacing the conveyor systems often used to transport boxes around distribution centers. Outside of the warehouse, drones may also be used for supply chain deliveries. For example, UAVs could ship inventory between production facilities and distribution centers, potentially expediting order fulfilment.

THE OBSTACLES

In terms of barriers to adoption, there’s the usual suspects in terms of privacy, safety, security and legal barriers for the industry to overcome. According to Goldman Sachs, some of the biggest obstacles to commercial adoption are regulations imposed by the FAA stating that drone flight is limited to a pilot’s line of sight, cannot fly over 400 feet, cannot operate over people or crowds, and must be flown by someone with a remote pilot certificate.

To unlock commercial demand, drones need to be able to operate beyond line of sight, above 400 feet, autonomously, as well as over populated areas. Of course, in densely populated areas, there’s many more hurdles to cross – particularly for drone package delivery, which is expected to be much further out in terms of market adoption.

 Questions

  • What are the challenges in the adoption of the Drone technology?
  • What are the applications of drones in supply chain?
  • Will drones lead to a reduction in jobs?
  • Is the investment in drones worth it for businesses?

Links:

https://www.cio.com/article/3304425/supply-chain-management/drones-in-the-supply-chain-the-evolving-drone-landscape-and-ecosystem.html

 

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/foreign-exchange/articles/drones-impact-supply-chain-management/

 

https://www.scmr.com/article/nextgen_supply_chain_the_emerging_role_for_drones