The possibility of home delivery by drone began to be taken seriously by companies a few years ago, but due to the messy legal background, the technology has not been widespread since then. In some countries, such as Australia and Finland, however, drone transport is already part of everyday life, and in Africa, health care has been reformed thanks to drones. The leaders of the two players in the sector, Alphabet Wing and Zipline, talked about how the drone transport market is standing and what we can expect in the future. Wing is a strange situation, as Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is not directly interested in retail, yet with their drone home delivery service, they have managed to overtake the Amazon, which has been planning its own service since 2016 under the name Prime Air. Wing – then still under the wings of Google – launched four years earlier, in 2012, and launched their first commercial service in Canberra, Australia last April. Since then, the Wing has become available in several other cities, in addition to Logan in Australia (a suburb of Brisbane) and active in Christianburg in Helsinki and the United States.
It is important to know that Wing does not sell its own products, but, like a classic home delivery service, they deliver the products of other shops, restaurants and companies in a shorter, few kilometers. James Burgess, the company’s CEO, said the epidemic had a particularly stimulating effect on the market, with closures and restrictions approached countless companies trying to deliver to the drone house. In Australia, for example, library books are already shipped using this method. The most surprising turn, however, was the popularity of coffee delivery, which at first was also thought at Wing that drone delivery won’t really work, but today it’s the most popular product they order from them. This is because drone delivery over short distances can be terribly fast, with the product at the office door in just a few minutes of ordering. The Wing works with drones, mainly made of styrofoam, specially developed for this purpose, which are not really reminiscent of traditional drones and can fly at speeds of about 11 km / h. When the order arrives, the buyer will be notified of this on their smartphone, and then all they have to do is walk out the door and hang the goods from the drone floating high.
Although he did not say specific prices, Burgess said the use of drones could significantly reduce transportation prices and, more importantly, open up the possibility of delivery to many businesses that do not have their own built-in infrastructure. Burgess said such a mode of transport does not pose any particular hazards, as the drones are controlled by specially developed air navigation software, so the risk of collisions is virtually zero. According to the CEO, there is a big future ahead for drone transport, the biggest obstacle he currently sees in regulation. According to him, this is a bit of a case of “what came first, the hen or the egg”, because in order for drone transport to be widely licensed, they must first prove that it is a well-functioning and safe service, but in order to be able to prove it. , the technology should be used as widely as possible. Zipline faces a completely different kind of challenge, being the first to launch a drone parcel service in Rwanda. Keller Rinaudo, the company’s CEO, said they now have links to about five hundred hospitals and health centers in the Central African country that supply a variety of medical supplies, including blood and medicines, from contraceptives to cancer medicine. Zipline is already setting up the second distribution center in the country, each capable of serving an area of roughly twenty thousand square kilometers, so they can now deliver the necessary shipments to any point in Rwanda in 15-30 minutes.
To do this, Zipline uses a completely self-developed drone that accelerates to one hundred km / h in half a second, drops the goods at the marked location, and then returns to stop with a pole as if boarding a large slingshot. Like the Wing, Zipline is developing not only vehicles but also a complete infrastructure that includes pre-flight safety control, communications, data logging and aeronautical software, enabling air traffic control to monitor drone status in real time, minimizing accidents. chance. For efficient operation, a separate logistics software has also been developed, as a result of which the drone identifies the package based on the barcode, so it automatically knows where to deliver it. Zipline has also recently begun to expand in Ghana, where it already has agreements with 2,000 hospitals and health centers, and deliveries, according to Rinaudo, are so fast that patients don’t even notice that the drug was not in stock but came from hundreds of miles away. me. In addition, the company has already begun expansion in the U.S., where for the time being it is only delivered home to patients who had previously attended an online medical consultation. This is a much bigger challenge, according to Rinaudo, as they have to organize logistics in a much more complicated airspace in the United States, but their experience so far is positive.
The company’s CEO also talked about Zipline being able to play a major role in fighting the coronavirus, as although vaccines are already on the verge, distributing them is not always an easy task. The company will be able to benefit greatly from reaching rural, more remote areas, which of course is true not only for the delivery of vaccines, but also in general. According to Rinaudo, this kind of immediate delivery could result in a much fairer health care system in the long run that gives everyone access to health care.