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Will drones reduce delivery times from hours to minutes?

16th August 2017

A few months ago Amazon began delivering orders by drone in the UK. Their drone experiment has moved a long way from the initial tests and regulatory checks to now actually being operational – the first drone delivery was last December when a customer in Cambridge ordered an Amazon Fire TV and the drone delivered it inside 13 minutes.

In Dubai, a general purpose drone system is planned for next year. This would allow any company to deliver products of up to five kilograms anywhere across Dubai. The drone technology market is expected to be worth over $1.5bn just in the Middle East by 2022.

Drones have clearly moved on from being seen as hi-tech toys and are becoming an integral part of the delivery ecosystem. However, there are some legislative difficulties in important markets like the USA.

Drone pilots require line of sight under US regulations. This makes delivery by drone almost impossible, as it would require that the drone can only deliver to locations that are within sight of their operational warehouse. Similarly, in regulatory environments like the UK, it is possible for a pilot to fly several drones simultaneously and this is also not allowed in the USA, reducing the efficiency of each pilot.

Amazon only started testing drones in July last year. By the end of the year, they had made the first commercial delivery to a real customer. The rate of acceleration in delivery technologies is astonishing. Five years ago the media barely ever mentioned drones and now there are dozens of articles on this subject every single day.

That Amazon delivery in 13 minutes is where we should all pay attention. Amazon recently entered the Singapore market with a promise to deliver anything anywhere in two hours. That’s not using drone technology, but there is no reason why they could not extend their capabilities to include drones in future – potentially reducing the delivery time from hours to minutes.

I remember a time when 28-day delivery was common and considered normal. Now customers are impatient if the only option is next-day delivery. Omni-channel retail is developing fast and I foresee that drone delivery will be an important factor, with services run by individual companies, like Amazon, and delivery services offering their drones-for-hire to anyone needing to send a package across town quickly. It will not be long before delivery in two hours is unacceptable. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, or get in touch on LinkedIn.

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Helen Murray
Article by: Helen Murray

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