Drones and UAS offer a gateway to revolutionise the way consumers receive goods in what is the biggest logistical shakeup since the Royal Mail’s first motor vehicle entered service back in 1907. Today, the use of Drone technology offers an exponential opportunity to accelerate this process. With greater scope for funding opportunities and a projected market CAGR growth rate of 40% between 2022 and 2028, now is the time to exploit the use of drones and explore integration in workflow practices. However, challenges and limiting factors are holding many back.
How can these challenges be navigated and who are the company leaders forging the way in drones use? Let’s take a wider view.
Drones are quickly increasing in popularity for the delivery of goods to customers and the greater efficiency and improved flexibility of drones used by delivery companies are undeniable benefits. However, struggles with reducing costs for mass-scale adoption, and regulatory issues, alongside technical and operational limitations, are posing considerable challenges to universal drone adoption and implementation.
Governance of airspace, privacy and security can all impact drone flight routes, in particular for companies working in various different countries with different regulations and requirements for drone use.
Limited battery life, payload capacity, and range can all also affect operational effectiveness, alongside management of weather conditions, signal interference, and - in some instances - cyberattacks. Much like the rapidly developing eVTOL and UAM markets, there is a need for standardized infrastructure for loading and charging and this interoperability will be extremely challenging given the differences in application between tether, drop, dock and parachute methods currently employed.
That said, for those who have found ways to navigate these challenges, the business success to be enjoyed is considerable. A deeper dive reveals some companies are thriving after navigating these setbacks; what can we learn from them?
With investment from Coca-Cola HBC and over $40m raised to date, Irish drone start-up Manna has certainly made a splash in the drone delivery market. In 2021 the business received EASA backing after being the first ever operator to be awarded the “light UAS operator”, or LUC, allowing them to self-authorise operations across the EU.
Their commercial success and recognition are built on the core principles of delivery made simple - with their App live on iOS and Android, faster - within 3 minutes of order, safer, quieter, and greener – with up to 8x less CO2 emitted versus conventional car delivery.
With flight speeds up to 60kph and payloads of 3.5kg, Manna is well suited to performing high-volume deliveries in highly populated suburban settings, as demonstrated by securing operator status for the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone.
With a strong grip on the Australasian market and continued global growth, Swoop Aero are meeting gaps in infrastructure to better serve communities across the planet. Their work in medical transport is seeing increased efficiency and responsiveness in pathology, pharmaceutical, and urgent blood supply delivery. Meanwhile, mapping projects supported by drone tech are providing earlier warning of landscapes vulnerable to natural disasters, and monitoring wildlife in need of conservation.
Their cloud-based flight planner ensures routes meet local and national requirements, whilst mitigating risks and giving a clear view of terrain within the flight geography. 2022 was a big year for the Australian innovator, breaking past 1 million items delivered and $27.5m raised; and 2023 looks equally as exciting with growth in the US & New Zealand.
With 97% fewer emissions and 7x the speed of traditional deliveries, Zipline offers streamlined and planet-friendly drone delivery, particularly in their efforts to deliver blood and medical supplies to rural clinics in Africa. Utilising tether technology they achieve precise delivery, seamless integration and predictive airspace technology. With $330m raised in Series F funding earlier this year, Zipline shows no signs of slowing down as they navigate the challenges of drone implementation with ease.
With a focus on unrivalled access to goods and universal reach, Matternet works globally to transport goods via drones at a fraction of the time, with greatly reduced financial and energetic costs versus traditional methods.
Their fleet includes the M2 Drone, a world-first delivery drone with an FAA Type Certificate, which uses proprietary drone infrastructure to receive drone deliveries. Payloads of up to 2 kilograms can be handled with ease across distances of up to 20 kilometres, making Matternet a leader in tackling challenges to bring drone use forward.
Advanced vision, flight planning, and elite navigation systems put Wing’s autonomous drone fleet at the forefront of drone innovation. A subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, Google’s holding company, recently showcased its Y-shaped “autoloader” station to further advance the tether system used by the likes of Zipline, Manna, SkyDrop and DroneUp. Combating concerns around safety and navigation, Wing’s drones can plan their own routes, check for system errors, and respond to delivery requests on demand.
Working across three continents with over 300,000 commercial deliveries to date, Wing’s drone fleet is achieving real-world expansion with ease. Meanwhile, their developing aircraft library is already looking ahead to future market developments.
From medical supply delivery to natural disaster projection, the use of drones is revolutionising goods delivery across all industries. Whilst its challenges are real, with innovative thinking and creative technology, it seems a future of comprehensive drone onboarding for optimised support is possible. If you’re looking to learn more, get in touch and let’s discuss what’s next for this exciting sector.
The use of drone technology remains minimal across industries, so what are the barriers to drone onboarding and what can they offer us? Let's discuss.