Are drones commercially viable within the supply chain?

This time last year Amazon announced its intention for ‘Prime Air’ to become a legitimate form of parcel delivery within the supply chain, using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UVA) in place of conventional road transportation and as recently as last week, was given permission by the Civil Aviation Authority to test drones in the UK.

As the latest form of disruptive technology, drones have provided the logistics and supply chain industry with both excitement and hesitation. The benefits of using drones are substantial, as they have the potential to lower; cost, environmental impact, traffic congestion, delivery window times as well as having the ability to be used for such activities as search and rescue.

However, there is wider concern over designated delivery spots, endangering planes, weather contingency plans, consumer awareness, as well as the ability for UAV’s to be used to spy on high profile individuals.

There are also a number of barriers which must first be overcome before any commercial use of drones can be put into effect, beginning with legislation that outlines the parameters of how they can be used. In addition, the current 20 kilogram weight limit, fears over hacking and more importantly – the question of drones being used to complement existing jobs in the supply chain or replacing them entirely must also be addressed.

Still, the logistics and supply chain sectors have benefited greatly from innovative technology and developers are realising that they can be even more creative in their approach to solutions that influence the production and distribution of goods with the implementation of; warehouse management systems, delivery management systems and augmented reality wearables.

In the case of drones, their ability to ‘swarm’ with the cost per asset becoming small in addition to flying autonomously (to avoid crashing into each other), allows for an increase in capacity by simply increasing the number of units in a swarm.

For this reason, with the attraction of a less expensive, faster delivery service, companies within the logistics and supply chain industry are encouraged by the prospect of using drone technology which could dramatically change both the parcel business and the warehouse, eventually becoming a tool in servicing the supply chain.

As the latest form of disruptive technology within the supply chain, businesses may want to consider investigating strategies in order to see how drones might fit into their business model in the future.

The Logistics Business Ltd can offer strategic insight and the skills necessary for businesses to create an agile and responsive supply chain. To find out more, contact us on +44 (0)1527 889060 or email info@logistics.co.uk.