A new courier services near me? Covid is certainly bringing us a lot of ‘firsts’ and sudden acceleration to mainstream in terms of innovation and technology. Who’d have thought a year ago that Zoom would become common place for both business and family meetings? Schooling would be done for the whole population remotely online. And now drones are being used to carry COVID-19 samples and test kits in some parts of Argyll & Bute to their nearest hospital in Oban.

A three month project has started following a trial last year for medical cargo to be carried up to 40 miles. The trial which was backed by the UK Space Agency took place in Essex and was driven by the need for faster NHS supply chain logistics. It is argued that drone delivery is faster, more reliable and kinder to the environment as well as in COVID times reducing physical contact and risk of disease.

The Harbour of Oban and the Mccaig's Tower
The Harbour of Oban and the Mccaig's Tower

Back to this latest development in Scotland; let’s put into context how drones are speeding up NHS work. Lochgilphead to Oban is a distance of 37 miles but takes over an hour to drive assuming the roads are actually open. Or to get from Isle of Mull to Oban requires a ferry journey to cover the short distance of 12 miles. The ferries only run 4 times a day – weather permitting – at present (winter timetable) so delays are inevitable. We all know the importance of quick testing and treatment for COVID, especially in highly vulnerable areas like the Highlands and Islands which have a largely older population. Read more about this innovation here.

But this poses a bigger question that we have explored previously early on in the pandemic about the future of drones for deliveries and will they pose a tangible threat to traditional man in a van. Let’s see what the thinking is now we are in 2021 with a roadmap now presented on the lifting of lockdown but not a guarantee that COVID will never come back to haunt us.

Drone delivery in the USA

Even though it is unlikely any time soon that this will be the norm for any courier services near me or you, let’s take a look over to the USA. One of the most recent articles from MarketWatch from January this year reports that Amazon and Walmart are using them to deliver groceries, household items and even pandemic test kits. They also report that Pizza Hut Israel are trialling them for fast delivery. Let’s face it; we’d all prefer our pizza delivery to be as fresh and hot as possible.

Walmart Distribution Center with the slogan of: Our People Make The Difference
Walmart Distribution Center with the slogan of: Our People Make The Difference

Indeed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a report in January 2021 which forecast substantial growth in this market with a doubling of flights by 2024 and they expect by 2030 there to be 500 million deliveries using drone technology. Indeed courier company UPS now has its own drone unit.

Most likely the one that will really get the man in the street’s attention though will be Amazon Prime Air which now has approval for drone deliveries in the US. Watch this video and see how you will be getting those packages sooner than you think.

Why drones may well be the future

Environment – no-one can argue that vans are great for environment. Even electric powered vehicles have their impact on the environment. The energy required to make any vehicle is immense. Electric vehicles are still large so need very large batteries to offer the best range possible. But the batteries are made from rare earth elements such as lithium and nickel which need to be mined from beneath the earth’s surface. The argument is strong for lighter delivery modes which can fly ‘as the crow’ does on a much smaller battery.

Speed – in this day and age of instant demand and gratification customers are increasingly impatient to receive their deliveries, no matter consumer or business. Drones can deliver almost instantly. No more waiting for a van to be loaded, then do it’s rounds and ‘next day delivery’ at some broad time between x and y o’clock. Deliveries to remote areas or through highly congested roads will be much faster

aerial fleet of drones as part of courier services near me

Efficiency – GPS technology and intelligent systems enable a higher success rate for delivery than reliance on the human factor when errors can often happen. Companies using drones will be able to increase capacity and productivity. Resources can be diverted to new innovation and away from repetitive tasks. Time management will become easier allowing better use of resources.

aerial fleet of drones as part of courier services near me

However, there are challenges to be met before drone delivery becomes the ‘norm’ for courier services near me and you

Drones are still in their infancy and are still expensive for the size that would be required to make this commercially viable so probably not with a courier services near me or you yet. The infrastructure to incorporate drone delivery services into a business are highly prohibitive. That’s probably why only behemoths like Amazon can afford to speculate into this market right now.

Staff – there would need to be a huge training programme to enable staff to programme and operate drones.

Batteries – to enable longer distances with heavier weights requires more battery power which, until technology advances, means heavier and bigger batteries. So, at present, delivery opportunities are limited to light loads and short distances with quick flight times of 30 minutes or so.

Cost – all this new technology and investment has to be paid for somehow and at the end of the day it will be the end user so delivery costs could rise above that of traditional routes.

 a courier services near me? A drone with a camera hovering outside living-room window
 a courier services near me? A drone with a camera hovering outside living-room window

Privacy – drones will likely use cameras – how happy will customers be to have Tech Giants peering into their front door uninvited? Add to that the fact that drone logistics means access to more data points meaning more opportunity to upsell, advertise and target, steal identities all in ways the man in the street cannot imagine. However, you can sure that the hackers and online fraud gangs already have their eyes on this technology and how to exploit it.

Reliability – just how reliable are drones. How susceptible are they to damage? Will they drop out of the sky? Are they safe in our already crowded airways? Are they safe for wildlife? We will need to see considerable evidence before mass upscaling of drone delivery to be sure.

What can we conclude? Is drone delivery here as part of courier services near me or you? It’s actively helping our NHS and key services already. It is being deployed for good. We are most likely not quite ready yet for mass drone deliveries but the pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the concept from drawing boards to reality more quickly than might have been. But we think, quite strongly, that couriers in the traditional vans with same day delivery in the UK will be with us for some time to come.

As we finish let us take you back to the splendour of Scotland as seen with drones and this wonderful footage shot specially for New Year 2021. Hope and inspiration at its best.

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