Drones have been regularly hitting the headlines recently, and with many global corporations investing heavily in drone technology, the future of drones looks bright. But are we getting ahead of ourselves when we talk about drones replacing couriers in the near future?
Despite the incredible progress that drone technology has made in recent years, there remain significant disadvantages to using drones for delivery, from battery life and risk of damage or loss, to the potential for misuse and disruption. And many of these issues are quickly remedied by traditional courier services.
There’s no denying the impressive potential of drones, but in their current capacity it’s unlikely that drones will be taking the jobs of couriers any time soon. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of using couriers over drones, and find out why so many companies remain hesitant about making the switch.
There are no limitations on the travel range of couriers
Drones can still only travel for a limited distance, as their battery life is finite. So, even some of the longest range drones are limited to a travel distance of around 8km. This makes things tricky where logistics are concerned, as many companies regularly need to transport goods far further than this. Couriers of course aren’t limited at all in the distances that they can travel, which is why they remain a better option for most companies.
Trusted couriers lessen the risk of loss or theft
While there is always a degree of risk of loss when goods are transported by courier, this risk is manageable. When we talk about switching to drones, we must understand that the risks of loss and theft could well shoot up.
Drones could become the target of thefts, as criminals seek to exploit the technology and intercept goods en route. Similarly, some parcels might be lost due to problems with the drone itself, and power outages may well cause the loss of a drone and any goods it was transporting. Companies thinking of switching to drones deliveries will need to consider these risks, and speak to insurers about specific coverage for goods transported via drone.
The overuse of drones could be problematic for air traffic
Drones dominated the news agenda in December 2018, when the illegal use of drones forced the closure of Gatwick Airport for several days. This situation proved devastating for the airport, with an estimated 140,000 passengers affected.
The use of drones remains limited, but we’ve already seen what might happen if drones were to be operated carelessly – and what can happen when drones are deliberately misused near busy airports.
If drones are to take over from couriers, there may need to be far stricter guidelines on how drones can be used, and where they can be flown. Without this, we could face some expensive, and potentially dangerous air traffic problems.
Couriers are able to transport heavy, large-scale items
The majority of commercial drones designed to lift packages are limited to a weight of around 20 pounds. Some countries also restrict the weights of drones and their cargo, prohibiting civilians from flying heavy, powerful drones without going through the necessary safety checks and training.
Couriers of course are able to transport heavy goods through a variety of means, and have been doing so for many years. If a company needs to transport heavy, bulky goods, it’s unlikely that drones will be a realistic replacement anytime soon.
Drone technology is going from strength to strength, and it’s something we’re definitely keeping an eye on. It’s entirely possible that the capabilities of drones will significantly improve as the technology develops over the coming years, and when this happens some industries may well begin to think seriously about incorporating drones into their existing logistics processes.
The limitations of drones should not be glossed over, however. Particularly when we think about the risks associated with drones in their current form. Despite the exciting future that drones may well have, couriers remain a more viable, trustworthy and inexpensive option for the vast majority of companies.
Seb Robert, Founder and CEO of Gophr.
This article was written by Gophr, a London-based courier startup creating data-driven, smart technology for B2B last-mile delivery.