Attention online businesses! Drones could help you take to the skies

With the first commercial drone deliveries set to start in 2020, here’s how your business could benefit…

There is much talk about drones lately, ever since they expanded beyond serving military purposes some years ago and became commercially available to a larger number of individuals and service providers.

Now, companies are competing in putting the lightweight and incredibly convenient aerial vehicles to good use.

So, how could your online business capitalise on drone technology and drone deliveries? Read on to find out more…

Drones: the future of e-commerce deliveries?

Giants like Amazon and Google’s parent company Alphabet are working on developing their own software for drone deliveries – which is usually a tricky part of the process.

Companies need to make sure that their system is scalable, their web site is always available and doesn’t crash due to high demand, and can adapt well to handling different loads and spikes in traffic – one way to do that would be to use trusted techniques already in play, like load balancing.

This is a tool used to distribute traffic across servers in an optimal way, reducing overload on any single resource, maximising application performance and making sure that the system is handling overload without risk of crashing.

Amazon’s use of drones, on the other hand, is focused on e-commerce deliveries – it tested its Amazon Prime Air programme for the first time in the UK in December 2016, delivering an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to two customers in Cambridge, which took a total of 13 minutes from the moment the order was placed.

In the US, where drone deliveries have been tested multiple times, 55% of customers are reportedly excited over delivery speed, while more than 50% are happy that the new system is environmentally-friendly and 40% believe that deliveries would thus cost less.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that it will unveil its new drone delivery rules in 2018, as the first commercial deliveries are projected to start in 2020.

A station network for drones

Drone delivery start-up Matternet is currently ahead of the game by actually moving towards establishing not just a drone delivery system, but a station network as well to ensure the system’s smooth function, reliability and speedy results.

Matternet announced earlier in September 2017 that it would start implementing its technology to use drones to transport medical samples between health system institutions like hospitals and medical labs.

Matternet was founded by Andreas Raptopoulos and is focused exclusively on building and utilising delivery drones – its M2 drone is designed to carry loads as heavy as two kilograms and four litres, flying distances as far as 20 kilometres.

It will start implementing its delivery system across Swiss cities and has already obtained authorisation from Switzerland’s aviation authorities – usually a big part of the hassle for those currently working with drone networks. In the future it hopes to expand its activities beyond healthcare to e-commerce and humanitarian transfers of diagnostics and medicine to cut-off areas.

Drone mailboxes

Since Matternet’s first network will be used in Swiss urban areas – where people usually live crammed together – it would not be convenient to just drop off packages in people’s front gardens or in front of their homes.

This is why the company is developing its own “drone mailbox” system to accommodate the situation: a customer can drop off a packet at a Matternet Station, which can hold it until the drone arrives and then can also keep it safe after drop-off and until the client picks it up. The start-up is also developing its own software to operate the system.

Is it time that your e-commerce business embraced drone delivery?

Drone delivery is arguably the future, and, while big companies are spending their time in e-commerce, it is great to see that start-ups like Matternet are leading the way in terms of vision. Delivering medical supplies and humanitarian aid is undoubtedly one of the best ways to use drones but the commercial uses extend to retail and groceries too.