Drones and the future of online deliveries

Drones were initially associated with the military and aviation sectors. But nowadays, they are being operated more and more for other activities, including deliveries, since we are living in the age of online shopping. This is made easier by the fact that drones can be controlled remotely by a person, computers, or a combination of both. And consumers are acting positively, with 58% indicating that they are in favour of (or at least indifferent to) drone deliveries

And where drones are really making an impact is delivering food to customers’ homes. Or whatever their current location is, whether it’s a golf course or a yacht. This is a much more sophisticated method of ordering take-aways, allowing customers to place an order (via phone or an app) and then awaiting drop off. 

But how does drones delivering packages (especially take-away foods) benefit the business or the customer?

  • Quicker delivery time: Drones don’t need to follow roadways, and since they can travel “as the crow flies”, that means they’re avoiding traffic and complex navigation paths. This has led to about 64% of consumers stating they would be “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to opt for drone delivery if it meant their packages could be delivered within the hour. 
  • Cost-effectiveness: As there is no labour involved, there is little additional delivery cost. Thus, delivery prices can be made more affordable, which benefits both restaurant and client. In addition, faster delivery could mean reduced shipping costs for customers, yet a surge in sales for retailers. 
  • More environmentally friendly: As drones are operated with electricity, no carbon emissions are involved. However, for this benefit to really work, more restaurants would have to resort to drone delivery. 
  • Better results / safer: Last mile delivery (which refers to the carrying of goods from a transportation hub to the final pick-up spot) is usually the costliest (about 50% of the total cost of distribution) and trickiest leg when delivering a package. Drone delivery could dramatically enhance last mile delivery from a nearby warehouse to its final destination. 
  • Enhanced customer base: Food delivery can be very helpful for people living in remote areas or who struggle to leave their homes due to illness, disability, etc. And since restaurants have a limited delivery radius, drone delivery can help them expand their delivery zone since they don’t need to worry about drivers travelling far. 

However, keep in mind that there are some cons associated with drone delivery, such as:

  • Technological limitations: Current limited battery technology means that one drone carrying one package can fly just over 2 miles (about 3.2km). Plus, cargo drones are limited to only 5kg of package weight. Luckily, those in the know claim that these limitations could be cleared within the next few years thanks to our current rate of innovation.  
  • Bad weather: Heavy rain, strong winds and other undesirable weather conditions reduce drones’ reliability to fly and deliver packages. 
  • Customer location: Drone delivery has proven successful in suburban areas, yet is much trickier for people living in urban areas / high-rise apartment buildings. 
  • Safety: If a malfunction or error occurs, a drone (whether flying in the sky or lowering for a drop-off) can certainly raise safety issues. 
  • Privacy: While some drones don’t have cameras, others possess low-resolution cameras (crucial for flight) that may be worrisome to customers concerned about privacy. 

Who’s on board?

Although drones delivering food packages to homes hasn’t become the norm yet, various companies have already noticed (and made use of) the benefits associated with drone deliveries:

  • Amazon created Amazon Prime Air back in 2013 already and successfully delivered its first package to Cambridge in December 2016. 
  • Domino’s in New Zealand successfully delivered the first pizza by drone in 2016. 
  • UPS set up UPS Flight Forward in 2019 to facilitate its drone deliveries. 
  • Partnering in 2016 with Gavi, Zipline delivered blood samples and other crucial medical supplies to remote locations in Rwanda in 2016. In fact, 2000 flights resulted in 4000 units of blood being delivered over 62000 miles (over 99779km). Zipline is currently looking to expand this service further into East Africa.

At MBA Green, we are fully aimed towards a greener future with our sustainable packaging intended for any kind of business. And while drone delivery might entail some special packaging requirements, we (with over 10 years’ experience in the sustainable packaging industry) have the capacity and skills to facilitate this and make drone delivery a part of your business reality. So, while we wait for cargo drones to take over the delivery sector, let us help you transform your business into a more sustainable one - one eco -friendly package at a time.