Are Drones a Fly-By-Night Solution or Are They Here for the Long Haul?

Who knew in November ’19 when UPS and CVS made history with the first-ever drone delivery of prescription medications from a CVS to a home in Cary, North Carolina, that a few months later this service would be saving lives. For those 65 years and older being at higher risk for severe illness, COVID-19 has been especially devastating. Drone deliveries provide an alternative to the human role, and the interaction with a possibly infected delivery driver transporting essential items.

In an unprecedented move, fittingly for these times, UPS Flight Forward, (which is UPS’ drone subsidiary), and CVS Health announced that they will begin drone delivery service of prescription medications to The Villages, a Florida retirement community of more than 135,000 residents. This ability to provide true contact-less delivery puts UPS in a position to take the lead against rivals like Amazon and FedEx.

In addition, as drone delivery service becomes useful to help stop the spread of coronavirus, it offers the opportunity to meet customer demands of same-day delivery. In an Onfleet Survey conducted in October 2019, 78% of consumers said that their experiences with Amazon have raised their expectations for all types of deliveries, while 76% said they would be more likely to order household items locally (vs. from Amazon) if they could get same-day delivery.1

As ideal as drone delivery sounds right now, there are some concerns going forward. The FAA will need to better address air space restrictions to accommodate drone deliveries in heavily populated areas that are likely to have a high demand for deliveries from local restaurants and grocers. There is also the concern of delivery drivers losing their jobs to drones. But drone deliveries aren’t totally autonomous – they need operators. Drone services can actually provide new jobs for other skilled employees. In addition to programming drones to fly from a warehouse, store, or restaurant, a UPS driver can load their truck, drive to a centrally located area and release drones for local deliveries.

With UPS, FedEx and Amazon all focusing on emerging technologies to address the demand for same-day delivery, these new solutions will help businesses adapt to life after COVID-19. The outcomes of these new strategies are good news for third-party companies and small- and medium-sized retailers who don’t want to build their own delivery and logistics networks. As businesses begin to implement new logistic tactics, it’s also a good time to revisit old ones. Is your shipping strategy profitable? Is you company spending too much on shipping? When preparing for tomorrow today, looking at your shipping strategy and spend will most certainly help improve your bottom line.

1. Onfleet Survey of 1,000 US Consumers Finds Most Would Buy From Local Stores Rather than Online If Retailers Offered Same-day Delivery