Are the delivery drones efficient enough to replace last-mile cargo vans?
Story by: Morgan Forde at supplychaindive.com
Using electric, autonomous drones for package deliveries can result in “operational costs [that] are at least 70% lower than a van delivery service,” Pedro Pacheco, a senior director analyst at Gartner, said in a company research note published Tuesday.
These cost savings come from avoiding traffic. Drones can cover greater distances in shorter amounts of time, thereby saving fuel, cutting costs-per-mile and reducing their carbon footprint, Pacheco said.
Some experts disagree about the energy efficiency of drone fleets. A Rand report from 2017, and a January study conducted by researchers from Martin Luther University in Germany, found using drone fleets could use roughly the same or up to 10 times more energy, respectively, than traditional van deliveries, when run at scale.
Gartner estimates 1 million drones will be running retail deliveries by 2026, compared to 20,000 today.
Currently, DHL, FedEx, UPS and other major carriers have drone delivery operations up and running. While the scale of these deliveries remains limited to pilot operations in certain areas largely due to regulatory constraints, Gartner experts anticipate those roadblocks will be largely overcome by 2025, paving the way for full-scale operations.
But to reach that target within the next six years, companies will need to start investing now, acquiring the drones and establishing the digital infrastructure to operate them, according to the company’s note.
In addition, determining which parcels are best carried by drones (drones have lower weight limits) versus conventional trucks requires a careful examination of a shipper’s delivery network.
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