Are drone deliveries the future for e-commerce and retail?

Drone deliveries are transforming logistics in e-commerce and retail. Drone technology is the future, and enterprises are rushing to get a piece of the pie.

Did you order a package recently? Were you delighted that it reached you within a day or two? Technology has turned wonders into facts. E-commerce has increased the purchasing choices and power for all of its patrons. And it has a multi-industry influence. The standards for ‘waiting’ have gone down so much so that retail, manufacturing, tangible and intangible services are moving to an omnichannel model. You can file your taxes, attend virtual classes, and perhaps even cast your vote online (in the near or distant future). Essentially, everything which required you to ‘wait’ is quickly becoming obsolete.

However, there is a catch here. Catch No – 1. More than a million delivery packages move through a major city every day. Add to that the increased activity of ride-sharing companies and quick service restaurants. All of these services are using the same roads and bridges along with daily commuters, public transportation, and emergency services. The infrastructure setup hasn’t evolved at the same pace as technology.

Roads and infrastructure are more and more congested

This is not odd. The speed of technology development would always be much faster than that of social change, regulatory adjustments and infrastructure upgrades. So, the reality is that traffic congestion would increase with multiple services competing for the same resources, the most important of those being roads. According to a recent INRIX study, about $87 billion of public and private wealth (in time and resources) is lost to traffic congestion annually. Within that, traffic ends up costing each driver an average $1,348 and 97 hours a year. Top three cities for the most hours lost to traffic were – Moscow, Istanbul and Bogota.

Consider the estimate that the last mile (intra-city movement to delivery location) takes up 28% of the total costs of goods movement. Even if on average last-mile traffic congestion increases the delivery timeline by 10%, it increases the ‘total cost’ of goods movement by anything between 2-3%. And this can mean millions. Traffic costs a lot.

This is a simple idea and easy to digest. Traffic would increase gradually to a point where it becomes a serious bottleneck. This is a fact for all the industries which heavily rely on intra-city transportation, a level playing field for all.

Fast-growing e-commerce and retail with a traffic bottleneck

Coming to Catch No – 2: The number of delivery packages on the roads are only increasing. Retail is growing at a CAGR of 5.3%, e-commerce at 11% and ride-sharing companies at 18.6%. They are driven by fast-developing countries like India, where internet penetration stood at 40% and is growing at 18%. Major companies are pushing heavy capital to capture a distinct market-share. This competition has turned the 3 to 4-day deliveries into next day. The winnings for these companies are immensely epitomized by Jeff Bezos recent foray into his passion project – Blue Origin. He famously said, “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it.”

Catch 1 and Catch 2 together mean that there is big money in cutting down this ‘waiting’ for the consumers and that the competition is intense. Large companies want to scale faster and new entrants are hoping for innovation to catch a break. Only the one that would be able to rise above the common traffic and resource restrictions. How can they cut down more on the waiting time and yet save those millions in traffic costs? Drones.

Drones! Deliver packages faster and direct with drones

Yes, drones. They are not the future, they are the present. Drone technology is moving rapidly, especially with companies like ideaForge building faster, lighter, and sturdier drones. Nay-sayers would state the cost of entry or execution is high for drone deliveries. But it’s not. The cost spent annually on traffic can set-up drone deliveries for an entire city. Imagine a drone flying in within the hour with your package. That’s the new zenith of ‘no waiting time’.

Drones don’t have to deal with the halting congestion of roads below, and they can fly straight from the warehouse to the delivery location; as straight as a point-to-point path can possibly be in a city. Another major thing about drones is that they are not prone to fatigue, unlike delivery workers today. They have to battle the suffocating traffic, weather conditions, rain and snow, finding a parking spot, and so many other variables. ideaForge drones are even capable of completely autonomous flight. This means that all that the operator has to do is mark a waypoint at the delivery location, and the drone will get there on its own, in the least possible time by plotting the most optimum route.

Soon enough companies the Amazons and DHLs will move in and make drone deliveries the new norm. It is the most viable future according to most experts. The perfect solution for urban and rural package deliveries. The sleek and lightweight designs of ideaForge drones, for example, set the industry benchmarks in high endurance rates.

1. Their IP53 certification makes them resistant to water and dust. This means that they can handle moisture even at high altitudes.
2. Their highly accurate location mapping (by locking onto multiple satellites) gives their auto-pilot (yes, auto-pilot) movement dynamism and perfection.
3. They can easily carry the average package weight with total stability and security.
4. Their flight-duration (total air time in one journey) is, again, the highest in their league, along with their speeds. This means that they can travel farther distances in one trip.
5. They can traverse high altitudes across tough terrains, which would otherwise be tough or dangerous for individuals.

Drone deliveries are the must-have for any company looking for a foothold in the rapidly growing retail and e-commerce industries. But it’s not just that. There’s much more to drones than just getting your headphones delivered in an hour.

Drone deliveries are a life-saver in disaster relief. Floods, landslides, earthquakes, or other natural disasters often isolate communities without external help. Drones can be used to help with such areas sending in medical and food supplies. ideaForge has been pivotal in many such as disaster surveillance and relief initiatives. In several cases, the affected areas during floods, landslides, earthquakes, or other natural disasters are completely cut off from receiving any help by road because the damage to surrounding infrastructure or to the roads and highways themselves is just too extensive. Even in these situations, drones are able to safely ferry emergency supplies such as medicines and medical equipment and food supplies to those in need, and this ensures that help reaches those in need, in time.

There’s more. Ever heard about the green corridors? There is a temporary or permanent set of routes which help transport patients to hospitals. They are also used to bring highly time-bound human organs for transplant in critical cases. Drones are being used by many hospitals and emergency services to transport these essential packages across the city within the hour.

Drone technology, as was stated before, is the present. It’s time we open our doors, or windows to drones. The infrastructure and regulations would catch up soon enough, as they do with all generational breakthroughs.



October 2022

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