The use of drones in delivery and logistics in the UK

Published on 15/12/2021 by Sukanya Awasthi

In the battle to stay ahead of the competition, many firms may be looking to adopt business automation processes by leveraging the latest technology. That —combined with the way the pandemic has adversely affected the delivery of goods and services— may have led to companies reconsidering alternate ways of making deliveries. One such way could be offering deliveries using drones. Research firm MarketsAndMarkets predicts that the global market for drone delivery will grow from $528 million in 2020 to $39 billion by 2030.

According to a report by Business Wire, drones are used for business transportation applications such as parcels and shipments, which saves time and money. When used for logistics, drones also make for an efficient transportation method by taking the item of delivery from the storage house to the delivery point in a timely manner.

Use of drones in deliveries in the UK can help increase efficiency

In this article, we will look at the use of drones in logistics and delivery —along with the benefits they have to offer— as well as the future of delivery through drones.

What are drones?

As per Builtin.com, any unpiloted or unmanned aircraft is commonly referred to as a ‘drone’. These devices —sometimes known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)— are capable of a wide range of functions including military operations and package deliveries. Drones could range in size from the size of a plane to the size of your palm and may travel at different heights. Drones can potentially be ideal candidates for delivering goods across distances since they can be controlled remotely and flown at varying heights.

Switching from manual processes to drones in logistics

According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the drone logistics and transportation industry is expected to be valued at US $11.20 billion in 2022 and is estimated to reach US$29.06 billion by 2027.

Companies like Google Wing, Walmart, Amazon, and DHL are frontrunners for drone delivery services across the globe. The operating expenses of autonomous drones delivering packages are at least 70% cheaper than those of vehicle deliveries, according to a Gartner report. The same report also predicts that more than one million drones will be delivering goods in 2026, up from 20,000 currently.

According to a World Economic Forum report, supply networks have been stressed to breaking point as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the problem of adequate and prompt access to life-critical items is more important than ever. The report also highlights that the current vehicle-based logistics network is becoming increasingly ineffective and unsustainable as customers seek on-demand, next-day, or same-day delivery. The long-term viability of global logistics may depend on investments in new types of robust and sustainable infrastructure, such as drones.

The use of drones for delivery in the UK

The Civil Aviation Authority announced in a report that it had authorised plans for Sees.ai —developer of a remote-controlled drone platform that allows industrial companies to capture large scale aerial data— to begin testing flights using remote piloting earlier this year.

According to an article by UAS weekly, the Royal Mail also became the first countrywide UK package carrier to deliver a parcel to a lighthouse on the Isle of Mull in Scotland via the use of a drone in December 2020. 

Additionally, a survey conducted by Strive Insight found that nearly half of the British public (49%) wants to see drones used for jobs that could be considered hazardous instead of people. The same report stated that over two-thirds (68%) of the British people believe drones will have a positive impact on their lives in the future, with nearly half (49%) saying that they are optimistic or excited about the potential that drone technology holds.

Benefits of using drones

In this section, we will look at how drones could benefit both organisations and individuals, and provide alternatives to manual deliveries.

Faster deliveries of goods

According to an article by Cyzerg.com, an item may no longer need to be loaded into a carrier’s vehicle and delivered to a client via traditional routes in the future. Rather, such tasks could be carried out through the use of drones. Drones can speed up the process of deliveries by eliminating external factors like traffic and other logistical challenges, as well as potentially offering customers same-day delivery capabilities. 

Reduced costs

If companies are able to surpass the technological limitations (weight and height limits), they can also likely cut down on the transportation costs associated with vehicle capital expenditures such as maintenance and fuel, among other things. Delivery through drones may also potentially lower the manpower needed to make deliveries and can help companies reduce resource expenditure.

Larger geographical penetration 

According to a report by Embention, drones could enable penetration to locations that are inaccessible to traditional kinds of transportation. As such, drones can become valuable in emergency scenarios where medical and relief supplies must be delivered quickly to isolated areas.

Environmentally-friendly

According to a study by ScienceDirect, reduced traffic congestion in cities, decreased greenhouse gas emissions and more efficient transportation operations are all possible benefits of drone-based deliveries. The study also states that drone-based delivery of small, express packages could positively impact urban transportation.

Quicker delivery of medical supplies

Pick-up and delivery of test samples —as well as transportation of medical supplies— to help reduce transit delays and infection risk could be another benefit of using drones. As per an article by Werobotics, 18 nations have employed drones for delivery and transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The future

The same Gartner report mentioned above also goes on to highlight that during COVID-19, enterprises will have the possibility to launch a drone delivery service because of the high demand for quick and frequent deliveries. Many companies around the world have started using or trialling the use of drones for deliveries. Since a lot of people may be expecting contactless deliveries due to the pandemic, drones may prove to be an effective alternative. Moreover, drones may end up contributing to logistics operations all around the world over the next few years owing to the potential benefits they can offer to companies. However, their full potential for boosting logistics and delivery operations remains to be seen.

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About the author

Content Analyst for the UK market. Committed to offering insights on technology, emerging trends, and software suggestions to SMBs. Plant lady, café hopper, and dog mom.

Content Analyst for the UK market. Committed to offering insights on technology, emerging trends, and software suggestions to SMBs. Plant lady, café hopper, and dog mom.