If you are a drone enthusiast, then you already know that drones can perform many tasks better than humans. For instance, drones can go places that humans cannot, allowing photographers and videographers shots that never would have been possible without them. Drones are not only fun, they are finding their way into the everyday work world and are performing an increasing number of tasks, offering business solutions for improved efficiency.
One of these areas where drones are being considered is as a solution to improve operating costs and provide greater efficiency is in the area of order fulfillment and delivery. Amazon has plans to develop a drone fleet that may replace your UPS and FedEx delivery man in the near future.
Drones and the Supply Chain
Amazon is the king of the supply chain. Their main selling point is the ability to deliver products quickly and efficiently. Currently, they use a combination of air and ground based services, such as UPS and FedEx, as the core of their warehouse fulfillment processes. However, in the near future, UPS and FedEx may have to move over because they may find themselves replaced by a drone.
Amazon is one of the first to consider using drones to improve the efficiency of their order fulfillment processes. Increasing revenues at Amazon depends on the ability to deliver more products quicker. The proposed model would use airships as air-based warehouses floating above major metropolitan areas. The items would be delivered to the doorstep of the consumer using drones.
If you think this technology sounds like something far off in the distant future, you might be surprised to find that Amazon filed the US patent in 2014 and is currently testing the new system in Cambridgeshire, UK. The model also includes a plan to use unmanned aerial vehicles to transport workers and goods to the airship in order to replenish stock and manage operations that cannot be performed using automation.
Delivery Drones: Opportunities and Vision
It is easy to see how a drone based delivery system could represent the next level in supply chain technology. If you are a drone pilot, then you might want to think about improving your skills and obtaining additional training and licensing. This new type of supply chain fulfillment system will mean new job opportunities for drone pilots and technicians.
Drone pilots and technicians may be able to put their skills to use to earn a paycheck in the near future. Those that can combine supply chain experience with drone experience may be setting themselves up for lucrative new career opportunities. If Amazon’s drone based warehouse and order fulfillment center becomes a reality, you can be assured that other companies will consider this as an option in the future as well.
The patent filing by Amazon provides that the warehouse airships will not be in a fixed position. This means that they can move large amounts of merchandise where it is needed. One of the potential uses for this type of system is that it could provide temporary fulfillment services to venues such as sporting arenas, festivals, concerts, or other areas to sell merchandise on site. This suggests that in the future when you order a chili dog or team jersey at the ballpark, you might order it using your smart phone, then your purchase will be delivered right to your seat by a drone within minutes. The possibilities for this type of application of drones are endless.
Challenges and Limitations
While using a drone to fulfill orders may seem like a dream come true to the drone enthusiast, there are still many technical challenges that need to be overcome. Amazon will serve as the groundwork for others who wish to follow in their footsteps, or rather flight path, in the future.
One of the problems that Amazon must overcome in order to make the drones the most efficient solution possible is allowing the vehicles to glide when descending to save on fuel. In the current test of the system, drones are being limited to packages under 5 pounds and to those that can be delivered within 30 minutes. One of the challengions and improvements on all future drone designs.
Competition for Ground Based Carriers
One of the logical questions that must be considered is how this new drone based supply chain technology will affect traditional fulfillment carriers such as UPS and FedEx. In the future, this is certainly a possibility, but the technology still has many challenges to overcome. Building and installing the airships will be expensive and must overcome many challenges. Safety and how to integrate the system into existing air traffic is one of the biggest concerns that will have to be overcome.
For now, traditional ground carriers are safe because of the limitations of the new drone-based system. Currently, the system is limited to short deliveries that take 30 minutes or less. For these types of local deliveries, the system promises the potential to provide even more rapid fulfillment. It is possible to have your order arrive within minutes after you place it. However, these types of deliverie s are not the types that ground-based carriers provide anyway. There will still be a need for ground-based carriers for longer deliveries and for those that are beyond the capability of the drone-based system, so for now, your friendly deliveryman will still be knocking on your door.
Amazon’s proposed airship based warehouse and rapid local delivery system cannot help but spark the imagination of any drone enthusiast. Think of the potential for fast delivery of pizzas or Chinese carryout. The popularity of grocery delivery programs is growing and drones may find a place here as well. The next time your doorbell rings, it might just be your new drone deliveryman with your package.