Last year Amazon made the first ever drone delivery of a package ordered by a customer in the UK. 13 minutes after the customer in Cambridge clicked on the purchase button a drone landed in their garden with the delivery. Will drones reduce delivery time from hours to minutes?
Although the Amazon drone trial was successful, there are a number of restrictions that are preventing UK drone deliveries becoming more mainstream at present. The weather needs to be fairly good to allow the drones to fly and the customer needs to have a location where the drone can land.
Things are looking more promising in Dubai. Trials have been taking place for some time now, based on a system created by Skycart, a San Franciso-based drone company. They are just waiting for government approval, but once granted the market value of drone delivery in the region is expected to hit $1.5bn by 2022.
Companies such as DHL, Amazon, UPS, Alibaba, and Emirates Post have all been involved in the trial demonstrating that the drones will be used for anything from postal deliveries to packages to retailers sending deliveries immediately after a purchase. Dubai clearly has an advantage over the British weather. If the wind and rain makes it difficult for drone deliveries to operate the UK is unlikely to ever use this technology in a transformative way, but this might well be the case in Dubai – especially with such a diverse array of organisations already testing the systems.
I believe that drones will be more important for retailers in the future, once some of the present limitations can be addressed. Customer expectations on delivery time are reducing dramatically. As Amazon has demonstrated, it’s no longer impressive to show that you can offer same-day delivery – how about same-hour delivery?
Urban networks of delivery centres using cycle couriers, or even autonomous electric vehicles, will be able to help improve delivery times, but to truly transform the time it takes to get a product to a customer air transport will be essential. Governments need to be on board with customer expectations and planning how they will control and license drone deliveries as soon as possible.
Retailers are already testing drones and proving that they can work. Will 2018 be the year when we see a dramatic increase in retail deliveries from the sky? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, or get in touch on LinkedIn.