The Coronavirus pandemic plagued the year 2020. People all over the world found themselves stuck indoors with minimal time outside. A year later, the end of the pandemic is still nowhere in sight. With lockdowns, quarantines, and the risk of transmissions, buying anything is a struggle.
The pandemic changed the way people get everyday necessities. Buying meals and groceries required people to wear face covers before venturing outside. Window shopping at malls became a risk. The longer you stay outside, the higher your risk of contracting the virus. Plenty of stores also closed down because of the lack of foot traffic.
This begged the question: how are you supposed to buy anything?
In these trying times, society looked to their phones for the answer. The Coronavirus put the traditional way of purchasing to a halt. It became clear that buying online was the future.
The World of Online Shopping
Pressing buttons on an app and hitting ‘purchase’ is a lot easier than going outside. Perusing online shops also posed zero risks of getting the virus. Receiving the item – that is another thing. At the end of the transaction, before you receive the item, you have to deal with shipping.
And that is where risks start to turn up again. Workers take a risk every day by delivering to countless customers. Do traditional methods of shipping still work in this pandemic environment? What if you can receive your packages without dealing with any human contact?
Are drones delivering packages yet?
Taking to the Skies
Drone delivery has seen more and more use over the past year. With the growing emphasis on social distancing, it put into question the old way of delivery.
How can personnel protect themselves while outside? How can customers receive their items without risking contact with a virus carrier?
That is where drone delivery comes in. With the use of drones, businesses can still send their products without risk. Their employees do not have to risk contracting the virus on the way to their customers. The clients can also receive their items without any direct human contact.
It is a win-win for both sides.
When Will They Arrive?
The promise of automated drone delivery has been around for nearly a decade.
Back in 2013, Amazon drone delivery promised to bring items to customers in less than 30 minutes. Amazon Prime Air was touted as the next generation of transport. Using drones, Amazon can send packages from distribution centers to your door.
The idea was simple – customers order items, drones deliver to their doorstep. In practice, it was a lot more complex. One drone flying to its destination is one thing. Flying hundreds of drones at the same time is another.
This led to issues like the need for stricter air traffic control and regulations.
· Can drones float above crowded areas?
· Can they do their deliveries at night?
· Is it necessary to maintain a visual line of sight?
· How high can drones go before they pose a risk to aircraft?
· How heavy can packages be before drones start having problems?
These issues have made drone delivery a slow – but sure – process. Over the past decade, several companies started work on their drones. Each one has a unique design and priority. Do they go for speed between one point to the next? Or do they focus on longevity in flight by increasing battery life? How do they plan to recharge the battery?
Progress on All Fronts
Amazon is not the only company trying to entice customers with same-day delivery. There is a large market in the United States surrounding fast shipping. The competition is not going to let Amazon take the crown. Not without a fight, that is.
Several brands started initial testing on drone delivery.
· FedEx drone delivery is another company vying for aerial supremacy. FedEx completed their first aerial shipment back in 2019. With FedEx’s popularity in delivery, it is no surprise that they want to stay ahead of the curve.
· UPS is another brand dedicated to shipping. Unlike Amazon drones and distribution centers, UPS focuses on their delivery vehicles. Drones start at a UPS truck and handle package delivery to your door. After they drop off their load, the drones return to the vehicle for the next item. This means that their drones face fewer issues on battery life as their return point is a lot closer.
· Google also has a stake in the race. Google drone delivery uses the Wing drone to transport small goods. In the past, they had success transporting takeout food at testing areas in Australia.
While they differ in motives, the process is the same.
1. Designing their company drone with cargo and distance in mind
2. Starting small tests on less populated residential areas for range and accuracy
3. Adding more drones and increasing the range of customers
Drones have many advantages when it comes to shipping goods.
The main selling point of drone deliveries is the faster transport of products. By flying overhead, drones do not have to deal with land obstacles such as traffic jams and road layouts. This means that they can reach their destination faster than any land-based transport.
Because of this accessibility, drones are ideal for medical deliveries.
· Blood packs
· Medical samples
· Transplant organs
· Emergency rations
These items can expire on the way because of factors such as time, handling, and temperature. Temperature-controlled containers are necessary when these items are on the road. Without the proper storage, these items can spoil or lose their effectiveness.
There is also a larger likelihood of damage on the product the longer the trip. Accidents can happen while on the way to the destination. Sudden stops can knock items inside containers. The constant vibration of the vehicle can tamper with the medication’s solution. Moving these sensitive materials can result in leaks and breakage.
Several drone delivery companies focus on these types of packages. Zipline drone delivery for instance has transported over 100,000 supplies in Africa. Zipline helps in medical delivery to remote, hard to reach locations. They bridge the gap between health centers and rural clinics.
Automation in a Pandemic
The pandemic shed the spotlight on one of the drones’ greatest strengths: automation.
With automation, deliveries can arrive at a customer’s door without personnel. This eliminates the need for face-to-face contact between the staff and clients. Drones can ship to those who cannot go outside, especially during this pandemic.
· Quarantined people
· Those in lockdowns
· People with health issues
· Those more susceptible to contracting the virus
· At-risk citizens, such as children and the elderly
For instance, old people can refill their prescriptions online. Instead of going to a drug store for meds, they can make use of drone prescription delivery. This way, patients can take medications without leaving their homes.
CVS drone delivery offers that – medical prescriptions straight to your door.
Delivery from above is also a wonderful upgrade for non-critical supplies. Takeout food, groceries, and online shop items can arrive at your door faster than ever before.
This quenches society’s thirst for instant gratification – or as close to it as possible. Fast food orders can take upwards of thirty minutes to arrive at your door. Using drones, you can eat your food minutes after you hit ‘order’ on the app. This guarantees that your food arrives warm and your beverages stay cold.
That is the name of the game at the moment. Which seller can offer the fastest delivery time? Whoever wins this race becomes the go-to for customers.
Domino’s drone delivery gave customers a taste of food from above back in 2016. They are the world’s first company to send pizza via drone. While the competition is not far behind, Domino’s customers can enjoy food fresh from the oven.
For regular shopping, the Walmart drone delivery system takes center stage. Their drone, the Flytrex, can carry items from the shopping center straight to your door. No need for window shopping, long walks, and waiting in line at the cashier. All you need is your phone and you are set.
Drones, while having many upsides, also have some disadvantages.
Delivery drones have unmatched speed but have a limited range. While they can soar through the sky with ease, they still have limited battery life. This prevents them from making longer trips in one go. Sooner or later, they have to make a pit stop for recharging.
Another issue would be the weight limitations. Right now, drones can only carry limited items and have a hard weight cut-off. Customers looking to buy larger items will have to use traditional ways of shipping.
Regardless, drone delivery looks to be the future of shipping. They can travel long distances at blitzing speeds. They do not conform to road layouts and traffic, giving them unlimited movement. Drones are quiet, do not produce smoke, or harm the environment.
Whatever the future holds, one thing is clear: drones are here to stay.