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Drone Deliveries Finally A Reality

After a year-long trial and 70,000 test flights in Bonython, Wing has launched the world’s first commercial delivery drone operation in urban Canberra.

Drone delivery technology has been ready to commercialise around the world for over five years, but the initiative has been stymied by air safety authorities who have scrambled to keep pace and ensure safety remains a priority. Now, formal approval has been given by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Wing’s Canberra operation will initially deliver goods from 12 local businesses to 100 eligible homes in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston and Franklin, gradually expanding to more customers in Harrison and Gungahlin. At present, customers can order a range of products including gelato, chocolate, bread and even golf gear.

Benefits of drone delivery

Drones will revolutionise the last mile of the supply chain. Benefits include:

  • A radical reduction in delivery time for online orders, with drones arriving in under an hour. Traditional online delivery can take 24 to 48 hours.
  • Safety: Wing is planning for a future where the skies above major cities will be crammed with buzzing delivery drones, and have built a platform that can manage complex flight paths of multiple drones. Unmanned drones avoid traffic and potential obstacles using laser, sonar and other technology.
  • It is estimated that by 2030 drone delivery could reduce traffic congestion by up to 35 million kilometres each year just in the ACT, along with a significant reduction in emissions. The drones are battery-operated and recharge between deliveries.
  • The full (or near) autonomy of drone delivery will lead to enormous efficiency gains for delivery companies in terms of headcount.

Preparing for drone delivery

Last week, Wing’s successful trial in Canberra was one of the factors that convinced the US Federal Aviation Administration to give Air Carrier Certification to a drone delivery service, sending a clear message to other players in drone delivery that drones can be safely integrated into the national airspace.

Expect things to move fast in the drone delivery space now that aviation authorities are on-board. Supply managers can prepare by:

  • Reviewing the amount of light-weight or single-unit orders in your supply chain currently delivered by truck.
  • Understanding current delivery timeframes versus future drone delivery times.
  • Reviewing price structures and costs, keeping in mind that drone delivery costs are likely to drop as competition grows.
  • Workforce reduction planning as your vehicle fleet is reduced.
  • Understanding what sort of locations drones can and cannot deliver to.
  • Incorporating environmental benefits into your business case for drone delivery.

Like any emerging technology, drones will evolve and develop rapidly. Over the next few years, expect delivery drones to become faster, smarter, more autonomous, quieter and stronger.

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