The freight industry is constantly changing and recent developments in “delivery by drone” technology continue to add to those changes. Drones – or “unmanned aerial vehicles” or “unmanned aircraft systems” – have come a long way from their early military and surveillance applications. These GPS-loaded devices come in all sizes and are used for all sorts of purposes, from news coverage to security patrols. Drones have even been used in entertainment: dozens of drones with different color lights dazzled viewers during Lady Gaga’s concert at the 51st Super Bowl in Houston.
These “flying robots” are expected to become increasingly common in the field of small package delivery. Under the guidance of remote “pilots” stationed back at a keyboard somewhere, drones have delivered medical supplies to remote areas, for instance. Some drones can get packages close to their targets autonomously and then a pilot will guide the delivery for the last 400 feet, for instance.
Recently, test drone flights with no pilot supervision have also been successful. With its sensors and highly advanced programming capability, a drone can locate a correct address, descend above a pre-determined drop zone, and then lower a package by rope onto a door step. It’s all accomplished with software-controlled “flight plans” and sophisticated equipment.
Huge corporations with deep resources are increasingly ready to launch their own entries in the drone delivery business to residential and commercial customers – and what seemed like science fiction is not far off into our future. What might this micro-delivery method mean for the trucking industry?
Delivery trucks that make door-to-door drop-offs for online retailers and businesses will be the primary sector affected by drone deliveries. With many retail packages weighing under five pounds, this will be an accessible goal. In some scenarios, drones could be loaded on trucks at the distribution center or warehouse and the truck driver could send them out and call them back to keep dropping off packages to expedite his route.
However, most truckers will feel little impact from the growth of drone deliveries. These lightweight air-borne innovations are a mere blip of the radar screen for long-distance freight haulers. There will likely always be a need for trucks carrying heavy loads across the country!
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