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8 Mar

Will IoT Driven Drones Displace Package Delivery Trucks?

Girls in tech

In recent years, drones have been getting a lot of attention because of their beneficial uses. For example, drones have saved many lives in the search and rescue of lost hikers. They've proven useful in spotting sharks near public beaches. Infrastructure maintenance people can readily inspect inaccessible parts of tall structures. Drones are also used for surveying, crop inspection, and for spotting forest fires. In all these applications, drones are used to deliver information. However, they're also capable of delivering physical goods as delivery drones.

Beyond following a preset route using GPS, the adaptability of delivery drones to unforeseen circumstances can be increased without loading them down with computational hardware. By offloading computational tasks to the cloud, drones would have access to a large array of heavy-duty applications. This makes drones more capable yet keeps their weight down, which would otherwise reduce their flight range.

With smart, cheap, and lightweight drones, it would seem that delivery trucks are destined for obsolescence. However, the reality is that drones will likely augment delivery trucks rather than replace them. The roles of both will be determined by their relative strengths:

The Advantages of Drones

Drones have many advantages over motor vehicles. For one thing, they can take a direct route to their destinations rather than following roads. This makes for faster deliveries. For example, a commercial drone delivery trial in Reykjavik, Iceland made deliveries of food items such as sushi, hamburgers, and beer directly across a bay. The delivery by drone took about four minutes as compared to the 25 minutes required of motor vehicles, which drove around the bay.

Drone deliveries are possible regardless of whether roads are snowed-in, flooded, taken out by mudslides, or are otherwise impassable. They are well suited for rural areas that lack extensive road systems.

The Advantages of Delivery Trucks

Compared to delivery trucks, drones have a limited payload capability. This limits their ability to make multiple deliveries on a single flight. Multiple deliveries are economically advantageous in areas with a high population density. In addition, their limited range restricts them to making local deliveries.

To get an idea of this limited range, Amazon's test drones were limited to round trips of about 15 or so miles. This will no doubt improve but won't likely approach that of motor vehicles, which are also becoming more efficient.

Delivery trucks are more robust in bad weather. Drone delivery in intense wind and precipitation is very problematic. If you have a sudden craving for fast food on a blustery or stormy day, you won't likely get it delivered via drone.

What these and other drone limitations mean is that they by themselves won't likely replace land transport. Instead, they will augment it. Nevertheless, there is no beating their fast delivery times, which is something most impatient consumers will appreciate.

To learn more about how the Internet of things is transforming the world, please contact us.

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