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National Courier Service | Same Day Delivery Management Specialist

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We’ve been hearing about the future of drones, and particularly drone deliveries, for quite a while now. The skies, we’re told by starry-eyed futurists, will soon be full of swarms of drones stealthily leaving packages on our doorsteps. 

It hasn’t quite happened that way yet. There are many reasons for that: technical, logistical, regulatory, legal problems, etc. It’s also important to weigh the pros and cons of delivery by drones.  

In other words: is it even a good idea? 

Drone Delivery: The Good, the Bad, and the Iffy

Okay, let’s break it down and take a look at some of the arguments for and against using drones for that crucial final mile distribution.

The Good

Obviously, there are some good points for developing drone delivery technologies. Otherwise, the idea wouldn’t have been mooted in the first place. 

One of the biggest pluses for designing a drone delivery industry is the environmental benefit. If intelligently developed, a drone infrastructure would be far more energy-efficient and would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Not only would a drone delivery system generate a lower carbon footprint, but this effect would be magnified by reducing ground-based freight delivery. This could have other important, unforeseen effects—such as easing congestion on overcrowded highways and transportation networks and leading to more efficient warehousing practices. 

The Bad

So what could be bad about developing a drone delivery infrastructure? 

Well, plenty. First of all, there isn’t really a secure system in place for drones to leave unattended packages. We’ve all heard about the notorious “porch pirate;” imagine thieves following drones to their destinations, or maybe even shooting them out of the air to recover the packages. 

Which brings us to the next issue in the drones controversy. The regulatory framework just isn’t in place and doesn’t seem likely to appear anytime soon. 

Where would drones fly, to avoid air traffic routes? Who is liable, if a drone plummets from the sky and harms someone? What about insurance for stolen or damaged packages? 

The Iffy

There are a few other factors that might delay the use of drones for package delivery: 

  • Quieter machines: Have you ever heard a drone? It sounds like a gigantic bee is about to carry you off. Developing quieter technology is a must if this service is ever to take off (pun intended). 
  • Longer flight times: This is important. Most drones have a flight time of perhaps 30 minutes. More powerful batteries need to be designed so they can fly further and longer. 
  • Safety systems: More sophisticated collision detection and avoidance systems will be needed before delivery drones become commonplace. 

These are just a few of the more prominent drone problems that will need to be tackled before a UAV delivery system can be set in place. These are really just a matter of innovation, however. If there’s a will and a lucrative market, these issues can be easily ironed out. 

Current Drone Delivery Systems

It may come as a surprise that, despite some of the above-mentioned hurdles to on-the-fly delivery by drones, there are actually quite a few networks already in place around the world. 

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Swiss Post

Despite a recent crash, which forced the temporary suspension of its program, the Swiss Post will resume its otherwise successful drone deliveries. Using the Matternet M2 Parcel Delivery Drone, the Swiss Post has been ferrying medical payloads to hospitals in Switzerland for several years. 

DHL

DHL’s Parcelcopter program, which uses a sleek little Wingcopter VTOL drone, has been operational since 2016. Like the Swiss Post drone service, DHL’s program is designed to transport medical supplies and matériel to remote regions with inadequate existing infrastructure. 

Project Wing

Probably the most ambitious UAV delivery system is Project Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet. Using the Wing delivery drone, which operates with an efficient electric engine and can achieve speeds of 74 mph, Project Wing has already inked deals with FedEx and Walgreens. 

Zipline

Surprisingly, the biggest drone parcel delivery service in the world is the little-touted Zipline company. This US-based robotics and drone technology company operates medical drone deliveries in Africa, for the transport of human blood plasma and vaccines to remote locations. 

Zipline has deals with the governments of Rwanda and Ghana and has already revolutionized healthcare in these rural African countries. Healthcare workers just text a request for a blood or vaccine drop, and it arrives 30 minutes later by drone. 

Which goes to show you that drone delivery systems are already changing the world. 

The Future of Drones

Drones delivering small packages is one thing. But what about drones capable of transporting larger cargo? 

After all, there’s much more to logistics than the final delivery of goods to the customer. The freight business is dominated by containerized shipping, and the need to transport large amounts of cargo for long distances is at the heart of the business. 

Some companies are exploring the production of full-blown cargo drones. Boeing, for instance, is developing a big drone capable of hauling up to 500 pounds of freight. Sabrewing’s Rhaegal RG-1 cargo UAV is an all-weather vehicle designed to handle up to 1,000 pounds. 

There’s even more on the horizon. From modular drone pods to self-sailing drone ships, it’s practically certain that we’ll see drones involved in just about every facet of future shipping. 

Face the Future With the Pros

While it’s interesting to speculate about the future of drones, and what role they may play in shipping, it remains the case that logistics is still a matter of trusted shipping companies. 

Drones or no drones, getting goods and products to your customers is always going to require a friendly face and a bunch of pros who know what to do. For your business shipping and courier needs, contact Expressway Courier today. 

Whether with drones, planes, trucks or even on foot if we have to…we’ll get your stuff to its destination. 


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Last Mile Delivery
Last Mile Delivery

There’s virtually no one in America who hasn’t ordered a product online. If you’ve ever bought something off of Amazon, eBay, or any one of the other e-commerce giants out there, you have undoubtedly gotten an email with your package tracking information.

Perhaps you didn’t pay it much attention, content to let your new item come in its own time. However, the majority of people don’t have that kind of patience.

When that tracking information reads “out for delivery,” it’s officially in the last leg of its race to get to your door. This is called the “last mile.” And last mile delivery is easily the most expensive and inefficient part of the fulfillment stage for any business.

But there are companies working hard to change this. If you’re curious to learn more about last mile delivery, why it’s so inefficient, and the steps that companies are making to change this, read on.

What is the Last Mile

Last mile delivery makes up the movement of your product from the distribution center to the consumer. A distribution center could be anything from a retail store, a rural home, a restaurant, or even a big warehouse.

This is the most important part of the fulfillment process because it’s the part that the customer is most looking forward to.

Not all last mile delivery is the same, either. There’s a big difference in business to business and business to the customer when it comes to this part of the fulfillment process. But just because they are fundamentally very different doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer from pretty much the same exact problems.

Why is Last Mile Delivery Inefficient?

Last mile delivery and all of the problems that come along with it have always been around. The biggest problem is in the cost. It’s downright expensive to transport different, unique packages and shipments to specific, unreliable destinations on any random spot on a delivery route.

In order to consolidate costs and save themselves, and their consumer, some money. Their real challenge is to make deliveries that are dense enough to justify delivery.

The carriers who deliver also have to deal with a lot of unpredictability. Often times, customer’s aren’t home at the time of the drop-off or someone steals a package. There’s also the incredible congestion involved in largely populated areas and customer’s expectation of swift, timely, two-day delivery.

It doesn’t matter if your company is directly involved with last mile delivery or not, when that package doesn’t get there, it reflects poorly on your brand and you can bet that people are going to talk about it.

How is Last Mile Delivery Changing?

Businesses are trying to get this leg of the delivery race down to a science. But in recent years, the delivery world has been turned on its head by e-commerce, crowdsourcing, and same-day delivery.

Amazon Prime is a big part of this upheaval. Since 2011, the service has grown an astounding 30%.

Delivering to a residential customer is a lot more expensive and inefficient than delivering to a business. When a carrier has to deliver a single item to an area far out of the way from the other delivery spots, and the resident isn’t even home, it drives up delivery costs.

But still, customers want faster and cheaper (see also: free) delivery service.

Here’s how the industry is changing to make that happen.

1. Faster Fulfillment

Because companies often don’t have any say in how fast or slow the last mile is completed, they put an emphasis on the physical fulfillment process.

There’s a lot of pressure on the fulfillment side of things to get orders filled and turned around so fast that there isn’t even technology that can keep up with it.

What used to be able to take an hour to get out the door now has to be done in a matter of minutes and that causes a big issue when it comes to planning.

2. Gig Economy and Crowdsourcing Apps

The delivery industry is a perfect example of how the gig economy is on the rise. The development of crowdsourcing apps is starting to change the game a bit.

UberRUSH, Postmates, Deliv, and even Amazon Flex provide courier services through independent drivers. They post jobs on their apps and alert the drivers. This may not be the most efficient method of delivery, at least when compared to a set truck route, but it’s speeding up the process and anyone with a car or even a bike can earn a little extra cash.

These services are only available in specific parts of the world, but they’re growing.

3. Legacy Carriers are Evolving

Carriers like USPS are changing with the times. Mail delivery is on the decline but e-commerce package delivery is at an all-time high.

It doesn’t cost much for the USPS to add a package to a delivery because they were already going to be delivering there anyway. It’s much more expensive for UPS and FedEx to make that delivery because it’s a stop that is entirely independent of the rest of their route.

4. Insourced Delivery

A lot of companies are starting to use their own vehicles for the last mile delivery. Take Amazon, for example. They didn’t have clients in the transport business before, but now they are dealing with a co-op with competitors in the regional area. They do this so they can use each other’s transportation assets to complete this final mile.

Getting the Last Mile Delivery Right

Fast, efficient, and inexpensive last mile delivery is on the rise. It’s the most important part of the fulfillment process and unfortunately also the least efficient. As technology develops, we’ll probably see drone delivery and self-driving cars delivering cargo to customers across the world.

If you’re looking for more information about shipping and delivery, visit us today.