Here Come The Drones

They have been popping up across a variety of sectors and it is only a matter of time before drones become a reality for retail deliveries


Advances in technology have made us want to get everything instantly, as almost everything is available these days with just the click of a button – or a mouse. When it comes to the delivery of goods, expectations are higher too, with shoppers no longer willing to wait days for their items. And this is where drones come in, making deliveries not just quicker but also easier, without the need for much manpower.

The whole idea of drones and e-commerce turned from just a dream to a possibility when Amazon announced in 2013 that it was launching a drone army to deliver small parcels for its online deliveries. The promise here is to deliver parcels of up to 2.5kg safely, within 30 minutes of placing an order. The company has already received approval for drone testing to be done in the UK and the US.

In the US, the first commercial delivery by drone was done in July, by 7-Eleven. Two deliveries were successfully completed in Reno, Nevada, where 7-Eleven merchandise – including hot and cold food items – were delivered to a local customer's house on two separate drone flights, using precision GPS.

In Europe, DHL has conducted drone trials for delivering e-commerce purchases. However, the company's intention is not to use it on a mass scale, but for reaching remote locations that are not easily accessible. And, the delivery doesn't go directly to the consumer either, but to a postal worker who then delivers the item himself to the recipient.

Here in Singapore, SingPost successfully trialled a mail delivery by drone in October 2015. This took place from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin and was the first time in the world that a postal service successfully used an Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for point-to-point recipient-authenticated mail delivery.

SingPost has a large e-commerce platform and is pioneering e-commerce logistics across the Asia Pacific. Exploring drone technology is yet another step to expanding this service, in a move to provide end-to-end solutions to facilitate urban logistics. The company also sees the immense potential in UAV technology for last-mile mail and e-commerce delivery, and aims to innovate and harness technology to bring end-to-end solutions that matter to customers.

Also in Singapore, it was reported in March this year that food delivery service Foodpanda has tested delivering meals via drones, in a bid to provide the most convenient and fastest experience for customers. With the aim of delivery times of under 30 minutes, the hope is to roll it out nation-wide in the coming years, if all the trials go well.

Earlier this year, the National University of Singapore announced that it will be holding trials to deliver parcels by drones. Collaborating with Airbus Helicopters, which plans to set up a Special Purpose Company in Singapore to conduct the project, the university developed a trial network of parcel stations within its campus. Suppliers across the island will be able to use this network to deliver their goods to customers across the university's campus.

With so much activity on the drone front, shoppers here may be receiving their purchases from these flying deliverymen sooner than they think!

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