drones supply chain

How Drones Are Revolutionizing Supply Chain Operations

by Nicolette Emmino

In 2013, Jeff Bezos announced the birth of delivery drones that would drop Amazon packages at your door within 30 minutes.

According to Research and Markets, the drone delivery business is set to reach $29 billion by 2027 due to an increasing demand for faster delivery in the logistics industry. In addition, military forces are also exploiting the use of drones to resupply soldiers with equipment, spares, food, and ammunition on the battlefield.

While our Amazon packages still arrive in the traditional fashion, this is not to say that drones aren’t revolutionizing logistics and supply chain operations around the globe.

There are many regulations to overcome and hoops to jump through before we bring to life the real-world applications of speedy delivery drones and even RFID drone technology for inventory tracking, but the vision persists.

Just last month, an Isreali drone logistics startup, Flytrex, raised $7.5 million in series B funding. The company, which specializes in food and consumer goods deliveries in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles, provides on-demand delivery services by drone. Later this year, Flytrex will scale operations and improve existing services, as well as launch a program in North Carolina.

Another advancement in the drone delivery market took place in Canada this month. Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) announced that it will be launching its commercial operations in a 16,000 square foot facility located in Vaughan, Ontario Canada as commercial operations commence this year
The Commercial Operations Center will provide ample capacity and space to house development and testing of some of DDC’s next generation heavy lifting cargo delivery drones, some of which have wingspans in excess of 25 feet and carrying capacities of 400 lbs.

Drones For Supply Chain Efficiency

There are two dominant types of drone delivery to consider: delivery for consumer packages and delivery within the supply chain. Logistics providers are experimenting with this form of delivery because, as with many disruptive technologies, there is hope of cost reduction. Implementing drone delivery within the supply chain affords companies the opportunity to create better efficiencies in the fulfillment process.

Companies like JD.com have already incorporated the technology at the warehouse level and even use drones to make deliveries to remote areas of China. In January, JD launched the first government-approved drone flight in Indonesia, furthering the capabilities.

(Image Credit: JD.com)

Getting products to customers is usually a very expensive and inefficient part of supply chain processes. According to American Express, drones’ potential to speed up deliveries and reduce costs has some believing they will change the way the world delivers goods.

Drones are currently being used by companies like FedEx and UPS to monitor traffic and create better delivery routes based on real-time data, but there is even more potential. For example, Boeing recently developed a drone designed to transport a payload up to 500 pounds for possible future cargo and logistics applications.

It is predicted that the use of drones in distribution and warehousing will increase over the years in order to perform inspections and maintenance repair. In addition, MIT researchers developed a system that enables small, safe, aerial drones to read RFID tags from tens of meters away while identifying the tags’ locations with an average error of about 19 centimeters. The researchers envision that the system could be used in large warehouses for both continuous monitoring, to prevent inventory mismatches, and location of individual items, so that employees can rapidly and reliably meet customer requests.

The obstacles still remain, but little-by-little, drone technology is becoming a more feasible opportunity to strengthen the supply chain.

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