24 October 2013

Drones may steal business from LCVs

Is order fulfillment of small packages going to be done by air instead of by van in the near future? asks Brian Byrne.

Could be that instead of the postman's van, an unmanned aerial vehicle — better known as drones used mainly by the US military — will drop off that parcel of books ordered from Amazon or wherever.

Well, a Sydney business named Flirtey plans to deliver rental textbooks to universities using drones, very soon.

It's believed to be the first use of fully automated commercial drones for package delivery in the world, and the company plans to launch similar delivery services in the US in 2015.

The books rental company, Zookal, claims deliveries can be made in as little as two or three minutes, in comparison to the days required for traditional shipping methods. Upon arrival at its delivery destination, a drone will hover and lower the parcel through a custom delivery mechanism that is attached to a retractable cord. A smartphone application can track the parcels for the customer.

The move is made possible by the relaxation of rules by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority in order to encourage the adoption of drone technology. With systems made possible by the convergence of internet, GPS and digital communications, the operators expect that package delivery costs can be cut to a tenth of their current price.

Flirtey is working to draft a set of guidelines for the use of commercial drones.