In a previous post I talked about some of the ways UAV’s make it easier, faster and more economical to get vital information even from places where human beings can’t or shouldn’t go. And although collectively those applications are going to have an impact on all of us and how we perceive and understand the world, there is another revolution just around the corner that is going to revamp nearly every business model in every sector. That is the revolution in logistics.
When Jeff Bezos announced in 2013 that Amazon was developing drone based delivery systems, many people thought he was crazy, but a few sharp investors sat up and took notice because whether or not they believed the project was feasible, they knew that Amazon’s interest made any promising startup a potential target for a lucrative acquisition. Today it’s clear that drone logistics is not only feasible, but also practically inevitable. The applications are being tested all over the world.
Have you noticed that a lot of UAV projects are being developed overseas? There’s a reason for that and we’ll talk about in a future post.
Google X’s Project Wing also started as a flying defibrillator, but broadened into a general method of delivering relief supplies and packages. The implications for commercial application are enormous. A fully developed drone logistics network could give retailers like Amazon a same day delivery option that they could not only use themselves but also sell to other businesses, including local retailers. The convenience of online shopping is merging with the immediate gratification of brickandmortar “retail therapy” to create a nearly irresistible “one click” shopping experience.
In Africa, systems that deliver emergency and medical supplies to disaster areas are already in development. An Iranian lifeguard drone is being used to save people in danger of drowning. In the Netherlands a UAV-mounted defibrillator traveling 60 mph as the crow flies can reach heart attack victims faster than an ambulance, potentially increasing survival rates tenfold.
The applications are even wider. UAV’s can carry food and supplies to survey teams in remote areas or keep a field hospital stocked with instruments and medications. A small fleet of drones could keep ships supplied from a base station, extending their range of operations and time at sea. The same system could be applied to drilling platforms as well.Best of all, data collection and logistics are not mutually exclusive. The same unmanned vehicles that deliver food and equipment to an oil rig can keep an eye on the weather, scout for new drilling locations and monitor structural integrity as well as track local wildlife and ice floes. We are just beginning to imagine the possibilities.