Last-mile delivery is the final leg of a journey, when a package is transported from a distribution center to the customer’s doorstep. It is often the most expensive and time-consuming part of the delivery process, accounting for up to 53% of the total cost.
Drone-based delivery is a new and emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize last-mile delivery operations. Drones can fly directly to customers, bypassing traffic congestion and reducing delivery times. They are also more environmentally friendly than traditional delivery vehicles.
As per the studies done in the year 2022, more than 2,000 commercial drone deliveries were occurring every day worldwide, and that number has only grown since. Drone technology has the potential to meet a range of last-mile consumer use cases, such as prepared food, convenience products, and other small packages, as well as B2B needs, such as moving medical samples to labs.
Reports suggest that, the global drone parcel delivery market is estimated to reach $40 billion by 2027 at a remarkable CAGR of 41.8%. With evolving legislation and rapid technological transformations, drones are being touted as a potential disruptor to the parcel delivery industry.
Benefits of Drone-Based Delivery
Drone-based delivery offers a number of benefits for last-mile delivery operations, including:
Faster Delivery Times
Drones can fly directly to customers, bypassing traffic congestion and reducing delivery times by up to 75%.
Drone-based delivery is more cost-effective than traditional delivery methods for short distances.
Drones can deliver multiple packages to different customers in a single trip, increasing the efficiency of last-mile delivery operations.
Improved Customer Satisfaction
Customers appreciate the convenience and speed of drone-based delivery.
Examples of Drone-Based Delivery in Action
A number of companies are already using drone-based delivery to improve their last-mile delivery operations. For example:
Amazon is testing drone delivery in select markets around the world. The company’s Prime Air service promises to deliver packages weighing up to 5 pounds to customers in under 30 minutes.
The company has not only tested, delivered and have mastered Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for food and groceries but the company has also successfully conducted BVLOS trials to deliver healthcare amenities to remote areas of states like Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Telangana.
Zipline is a company that uses drones to deliver medical supplies to remote and underserved communities in Africa. The company has made over 250,000 drone deliveries to date, saving lives and improving access to healthcare.
Challenges of Drone-Based Delivery
While drone-based delivery offers a number of benefits, there are also some challenges that need to be addressed before it can be widely adopted. These challenges include:
Drone-based delivery is currently subject to strict regulations in many countries. These regulations need to be updated to accommodate the growth of drone delivery.
The weight capacity of drones used for last-mile delivery can depend on the drone’s type, size, and design. Although commercial drones are designed to carry heavier payloads, the current drone technology limits the payload capacity, restricting the size and weight of packages that can be delivered. This poses a challenge for delivering larger and heavier items.
Drone technology is still in its early stages of development. Drones need to become more reliable and affordable before they can be widely used for last-mile delivery.
Limited Battery Life
Drones’ range and battery life are currently limited, restricting the distance they can travel and the number of deliveries they can make in a single flight. The battery life is also hard to predict and variable as it hinges on varying means such as size, altitude, battery type, payload capacity and flight speed. Unfavorable weather conditions, for example, may impact the drone’s already limited battery life. Wet conditions can affect flight performance, reducing flight time due to power shortages.
There are some concerns about the safety and privacy of drone-based delivery. These concerns need to be addressed before drone delivery can be widely accepted by the public.
Drone-based delivery has the potential to revolutionize last-mile delivery operations. However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed before it can be widely adopted. As drone technology matures and regulations evolve, drone-based delivery is likely to play a major role in the future of last-mile delivery.