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Drones and The Future of Delivery

Order fulfillment services are about to get turned on their ear as Amazon, Google and other delivery giants are pushing for the legalization of drone delivery.

These companies have already been perfecting their equipment and software in anticipation of future opportunities for even faster deliveries, but the FAA has been a serious barrier to the technology.

All of that is about to change. Drones demonstrated their usefulness in an official capacity for the first time on June 12, with the blessing of the FAA. The test drone was provided by a New Zealand startup, Flirtey, which may be a few steps ahead of our own product distribution companies due to easier regulations on drones in its native country.

Drone’s Successful Test Flight Opens Doors to Delivery

The Flirtey drone was tasked with delivering medical supplies to remote Wise County, Virginia. It performed beautifully, thanks to the efforts of teams from NASA, Virginia Tech University, various healthcare organizations in Virginia, Flirtey and other companies. This particular medical delivery is typically made by car, a difficult 90-mile journey on poorly maintained roads.

Following the successful drone test, Michael Whitaker, Deputy Administrator of the FAA testified in front of a House Oversight Committee that “RTCA [Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics] began work on the standards at the request of the FAA in 2013 and they are scheduled for completion in 2016. These standards will help resolve two of the difficult challenges facing the industry for integration of UAS [Unmanned Aircraft Systems] into the NAS [National Airspace System]. NASA, the FAA, and industry partners have successfully demonstrated a proof-of-concept airborne DAA [Detect-and-Avoid] system and prototype radios for use as command and control systems for UAS.”

This means that we could see drones delivering packages within the next few months, if the FAA and their team are as on the ball as they seem. Amazon and Google are both waiting in the wings for a chance to send their drones out into the world, with Amazon promising 30 minute drone delivery to your current location, wherever that might be, within their delivery zones. 

Drone Delivery and Fulfillment Expectations

For now, the two day delivery standard set by Amazon is the hurdle to overcome, but once drones are let loose on the public your fulfillment options may have to get even faster for your business to stay competitive. DHL and other fulfillment services are experimenting with their own drones as an expansion of their delivery fleet, but until these services are fully operational, it’s going to be hard to know if the cost will be too prohibitive for smaller eCommerce businesses to continue to compete directly with the online retail giant.

Delivery drones have the potential to redefine online shopping in a very significant way. Keep your eye to the sky and ear to the ground regarding drone shipping news, every eCommerce business stands to benefit from early partnerships with drone delivery services.

October 15, 2015
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