Drones and logistics: forbidden love or long-term romance?

Current technology allows it. Investors groups such as Google, Amazon, DHL or Facebook, that develop drones, want it. But the image of our cities’ skies permanently furrowed by hundreds of small drones carrying pizzas, books or cosmetics to their recipients, is far from happening.

Security regulations, anti-terrorist measures, weight limitation and “the last mile” issue – what happens if the receiver is not at home? – prevent this possibility from happening in our urban or urbanized areas.

However, in low populated areas with difficult access such as mountains, wooded areas or islets not far from the coast, drones are proving useful when it comes to delivering medicines and small spare parts of the urgent nature.

The large logistics warehouses and open-space storages of restricted access are a whole different story. In those surroundings, there is a growing romance that is going to go the distance.

Let’s see two samples:

Maersk Chile announced a few months ago that thanks to drones they had been able to dispense with ten security employees whose job was to oversee that there were no accidents on their container yard in San Antonio.

These collaborators controlled that there were no outsiders in the areas where large machines circulate (innocently careless truck drivers waiting for containers, disoriented customs inspectors in the line of duty or opportunistic petty thieves), checked the safety of the pallets and observed any sign of alarming signals coming from full containers, among other functions. All these supervisions have passed to be executed efficiently by drones in only a year and a half.

In a nod to the social sensitivity of the customer, Maersk added in his statement that the ten employees ousted by the drones had been assigned to less dangerous tasks.

On the other side, Walmart –American, neoliberal and with no complex- triumphantly informs us that a single drone is doing the same work that used to be done by fifty people.

They refer to continuous inventory work in their giant warehouses in the USA. A little fleet of drones with bar code reading displays permanently flies over the endless metal shelves guided by programs designed to control stocks.

According to Walmart, a single drone scans 600 pallets per hour. They’re not kidding.

And that’s far from it, these little drones not only can complement the security cameras in that task but also – in an incipient way – in picking operations in fraternal cooperation with the robots.

The Non-human Companies are coming.

Anecdotes of drones

Gatwick: Three days before Christmas, the second English airport was paralyzed for two days by unidentified drone flights near its runways.

Nine hundred flights suspended, 120,000 passengers affected, two detainees released without charge within a few hours, and important monetary rewards for those who would provide information. The result: nothing at all.

What can we expect?

A mid-fly drone break-down can cause serious damage, that’s why there is a limitation for drone flights to be authorized in populated areas.

A new generation of drones with parachutes is on the make for sure!

VR Mercante