As people are forced to follow stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, demand has grown for drone and robot delivery services. People are starting to understand drone technology as useful for various solutions. Global shipments of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are expected to reach 2.4 million by 2023, according to Business Insider Intelligence. Here's a look at how drones are developing in the coming decade.
Drone Delivery for Diverse Missions
While drones are still in their infancy on the cultural landscape, companies are now envisioning ways to use drones for a wide range of purposes. These delivery solutions, which are still in the development phase, include:
- Package Delivery - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has talked about the goal of sending packages to customers through drones. In August of 2020, the company was granted approval by the federal government to operate a fleet of Prime Air delivery drones. A wave of drones is now providing package deliveries in Christiansburg, VA.
- Food Delivery - Uber has started food delivery trials in a partnership with McDonald's, as other companies venture into food delivery via drones as well. It's expected to be a large sector in drone deliveries, which have started in Alabama, North Dakota, and North Carolina.
- Medical Delivery - Drone maker Zipline provided UAVs to help deliver PPE to a hospital in Charlotte in 2020. The company claims it performed the first emergency drone logistics operation in serving hospitals during the pandemic. Drones will no doubt eventually play a bigger role in delivering life-saving supplies where help is needed.
How COVID-19 Impacts the Global Drone Services Industry
Drone technology leaders expect to see the market grow to US$124.1 Billion during the pandemic with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 80.6 percent. Part of this growth will be attributed to providing a solution for social distancing. With so much global focus on the COVID-19 crisis, drone makers have developed innovative aerial technology to improve the direct shipping model.
The most severe effects of the pandemic in terms of business activity have included a huge decline in travel. With fewer cars on the road, it's an ideal time for testing drones for delivery. Evidence is beginning to surface on drone safety and reliability to suggest it's ready for increased activity. Rwanda has become the first nation where drone flights outnumber traditional flights.
Elsewhere around the world, drone testing has shown mixed results, such as in Australia. The China-based company JD.com has become the nation's e-commerce leader and an early adopter of drones to test in rural parts of the country. The first official drone prescription delivery service in the United States launched in April, as a team effort between the United Postal Service (UPS) and Swiss drone company, Matternet.
One of the rapidly advancing pioneers in drone delivery service is Google's parent Alphabet with its Wing project. Thanks to facilitating drone deliveries during the pandemic, Wing's partners have seen a 50 percent uptick in sales of certain products.
The global reset that emerges in the aftermath of the crisis will still call for continued expansion in drone technology for delivery solutions. The next step for drone development is to become a permanent and necessary part of the supply chain to provide efficiency and enhancement. Drones can deliver items faster than trucks caught in heavy traffic. Enterprises will need to collaborate more on efforts to bring drones into their supply chains.
The stay-at-home economy continues to fuel the growing number of business cases for drone technology services as robotics become part of the solution to deal with the coronavirus. Within the near future, the combination of robotics and AI development will make drone services even more powerful with added features for data collection and analysis. For now, drones will continue to serve a useful purpose in delivering goods and reducing the need for person-to-person contact.