Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are a marvel of modern-day technology. They are useful in both military and non-military applications. Drones are flying crafts that can carry a certain amount of payload. They can fly on its own (through GPS) or via radio signals from its ground station. These same highly sophisticated vehicles are being considered as the next frontier in the logistics industry.
Drones are of several flavors. Some important categories of drones with their advantages and disadvantages are:
Fixed Wing Drones:They require space for horizontal take off but have long-range and all-weather endurance.
Tilt-Wing Drones:They are a hybrid of fixed-wing and vertical takeoff and landing type (VTOL)drones. These drones have good maneuverability but are expensive.
Unmanned helicopter:These devices have VTOL and high payload capabilities but are expensive and require high maintenance.
Multi-copters:These are low weight, VTOL enabled, easy to launch, inexpensive devices but have limited payload capabilities and are prone to winds. These UAVs are the popular choice for logistics companies.
Drones in the logistics sector
Drones are increasingly getting utilized in the logistics sector. Used widely for warehouse management, delivery of goods, reverse supply chain, and intra supply chain.
Delivery of goods in urban and rural sectors: Drones are being considered as a perfect candidate for the delivery of goods in the urban and rural sectors. They can be used to deliver packages within hours of purchase. This is bound to increase customer satisfaction. They can either deliver to the customer’s address or track him through his mobile phone GPS and deliver the parcel at his outdoor location. This eliminates urban congestion and package security problems.
In the rural areas, drones can seamlessly deliver envelopes to multiple locations which are far off from one another. The cost of delivery through drones is $0.05 as opposed to $6 to $6.5 by FedEx UPS. The drones can even pick up small parcels on their return journey.
Warehouse management: Drones can be used to manage warehouses for their optimal performance. They would be instrumental for wave picking or bulk picking of packages and can be used as an alternative for conveyor belts or forklifts. They can also be used for inventory checking, maintenance, and inspection activities of the warehouses.
Reverse Supply Chain: UAVs can be used for the return of goods by the customers– reverse supply chain. Due to the lower operational costs of drones, the reverse supply chain via UAVs will be a cost-effective solution.
Intralogistics: Drones can be used to fulfill the time-critical requirements of manufacturing plants, mining industry, and other in B2B activities. This will diminish the idle time in these industries which is a major source of mediocre productivity and loss.
Where they Excel
Low cost of delivery: Since drones are battery powered and can fly automatically or with minimum human intervention, their cost of operation is much lesser than conventional logistics options.
Environment friendly: Drones do not emit any greenhouse gases and can be charged with solar energy making them an ideal candidate against motor vehicle delivery systems.
Increase of warehouse efficiency: Drone-based inventory management is quick and efficient, increasing the overall efficiency of a warehouse. They are poised to replace bulky tools in the warehouse – which are a source of wasteful expenditure.
Improved first mile and last mile connectivity: Drones being efficient parcel movers will improve the first mile and the last mile connectivity of a supply chain. They will reduce the fetch and delivery time of a product and automate the overall delivery process.
Assisting conventional supply chain elements: Drones can be used to monitor traffic and inform the delivery trucks towards alternate routes to avoid congestion. This is useful in scenarios where drones cannot deliver bulky packages.
Increased customer satisfaction: Due to the quick and dynamic delivery of products, drones are bound to improve customer experience and will boost the satisfaction levels of buyers connected to a supply chain. Drone-based delivery systems will also help maintain returning customers.