For a technology-forward company like Airspace Technologies, the opportunity to use drones in logistics is very exciting – and thanks to the work of some savvy startups, the technology could be ready fairly soon. However, much like self-driving vehicles, we will first need to settle the regulatory and insurance parts.
Imagine, for example, the impact on critical-needs transportation, such as getting human organs to the surgeons and patients who are waiting in hospitals for transplants. Shipping by air is more direct. It avoids traffic – and keep in mind that a lot of hospitals already have landing pads.
Beyond that, drones could easily make all segments of the delivery process faster.
With drones, we will be able to track the shipment at all times. Even today, thanks to our technology platform, Airspace can determine where its drivers are within only three feet. If drones have this level of GPS, they will be able to do the same.
Drones will also give everybody more options
Choice tends to reduce cost. Personally, I think the most immediate effect of drones may be for local moves – from the airport to your door or the factory receiving bay, for example. Or from the Amazon depot a couple of miles away to your porch.
But some savvy startups are already working to push that envelope. A company called Volans-i is building drones intended to deliver heavy parts over long distances, even to ships at sea. We’re talking about drones that can travel 500 miles carrying 20 pounds at a top speed of 200 miles per hour. Because they have vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, all they need to land is a 15x15 foot space. That means no special infrastructure is needed. This opens up the possibility of delivering equipment to factories, hospitals, construction sites, and more.
Keep in mind that regulators are still figuring out the rules for allowing drones to operate regularly in our lower airspace. And this is only one of the issues. This is also new to insurance companies. They are working on strategies, but those strategies will depend in part on the laws and regulations government entities eventually come up with. What about mid-air accidents? And crowding our airspace? Imagine air traffic as heavy as the Interstate 5 in California during Friday rush hour or Route 95 on the East Coast on a holiday weekend. Not a pleasant thought.
What do you think is next for drones?