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IS THE MARKET FOR DRONES READY TO TAKE OFF?

17 November 2015

The use of commercial drones in the delivery process has been one of the hottest topics in ecommerce over the past year, and a number of online retailers worldwide have already tried to ship their products using this relatively new, unmanned aircraft technology.

Amazon, Google, Walmart, BestBuy, Alibaba in China and Flipkart in India represent just a small selection of the global ecommerce players that have not only set their eyes on civil drones, but have already started testing how they can be incorporated into their supply chains.

Understandably, this strategy has spurred controversy across the world. While some industry experts see drones as the next big move to revolutionise ecommerce, authorities in different countries resist finalising the regulation of commercial drone use, due to safety and privacy concerns.

HOW CAN DRONES REVOLUTIONISE THE ECOMMERCE INDUSTRY?

The use of drones in the delivery process can significantly improve shopping experience and increase client satisfaction, by providing online buyers with speedy and hassle-free deliveries.

With shorter delivery times and less frequent delays expected from drones, customers will potentially have their purchases delivered much faster and right to their doorsteps.

Drones are also expected to extensively improve retailers’ supply chains, as they are more energy efficient and cost less than manned aerial vehicles performing the same tasks. So, retailers planning to make drones part of the delivery process can significantly cut down their costs of transportation and distribution.

Last but not least, drones present us with a very environmentally friendly technology. With drone delivery systems in use, fewer transportation carriers will be traveling on roads and polluting the atmosphere with fuel emissions.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES WITH DRONE DELIVERIES?

Although the benefits of using commercial drones can be clearly seen, there are still a number of security and privacy concerns around drone deliveries.

As the machines will have sensors and cameras, and will fly over the airspace above a person’s property, many experts argue that this is a form of trespassing on private property. Safety concerns have also been raised, in cases where the drone may fall down and cause an injury.

Since drones have a limited capacity, only a few items at a time will be eligible for delivery through drones, which make some industry experts doubt whether using this technology would be as effective and cost-efficient as expected.

Limited battery life is another disadvantage of drones, while bad weather conditions are also seen as an obstacle that narrows the potential scope of drone deliveries.

WILL DRONE DELIVERIES BECOME REALITY ANY TIME SOON?

Following from the above disadvantages of drone technology, authorities in different countries have started the process of making guidelines for the civil use of these unmanned flying machines, and have already put in place various safety and security regulations for testing drone deliveries.

According to the national aviation authority of the US – FAA, during test flights, drones must stay below 500 feet and cannot travel above 100mph. Drones are also not allowed to fly above pedestrians and must remain in sight of the operator.

Despite these regulations, it is slightly possible that actual drone deliveries will take place before sometime next year, or until delivery programmes, such as Amazon Prime Air and Google Project Wing, can catch up to issues of privacy and the technology becomes less vulnerable.

So watch this space, and let’s see just how far the drone delivery model will extend in 2016!

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