Delivery drones sound like a thing of the future — or something that’s only possible for large corporations. But as drone technology advances and becomes more affordable, it may soon pop up on the radar of smaller businesses. In fact, if your company operates in Canada’s remote regions, these tiny flying vehicles could even help you reduce shipping costs and speed up product delivery.
How Do Delivery Drones Work?
Delivery drones are more powerful versions of the models you can buy in stores. They use more powerful engines and rotors, so they can lift heavier loads. On the bottom of the drone, a sturdy storage compartment holds your products and protects them from the wind, rain, and snow. Like a standard drone, delivery models fly at a low altitude that’s lower than airplanes but higher than buildings, trees, and power lines.
When you fly consumer drones, you’re limited by your line of sight — if you can’t see the drone, it’s difficult to control. For delivery drones that need to fly many kilometers at a time, this is a problem. So developers are working on autonomous systems where, rather than using a remote control, the vehicle would be connected to a computerized system. Once you load in the product, you could pop over to your laptop and enter the location of your customer. The drone would then fly itself to your customer, drop off the package, and return to your company.
Advantages of Delivery Drones
If your company is currently using shipping services such as Canada Post or FedEx, you know that mailing costs can be high and delays may occur. Accidents, bad weather, vehicle problems, and human error can cause your packages to be late or lost, which can lead to dissatisfied customers and hurt your business. Plus, you’re always limited by the carrier’s scheduling and timeline.
Delivery drones could offer a viable alternative to traditional delivery methods, especially if you primarily deal with local customers. Instead of driving to your location or waiting for the mail, customers could place an order online — then, you could pop the item in a drone and have it on the customer’s doorstep in less than 30 minutes. Why does this matter? Imagine you run an auto parts store, and a customer needs a part for a vehicle repair. Instead of finding a way to get to your store, the customer could simply have a drone drop off the item to where they are. This extra convenience could build customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.
Drones can also help you save money. Rather than paying a hefty shipping fee for each package, you could buy a drone once and pay only for the electricity to charge the battery and any required maintenance. If you ship frequently, this could mean significant cost savings for both you and your customers. Plus, if you handle your own deliveries, drones could help reduce vehicle wear and free up your employees’ time.
Delivering in Canada’s Remote Regions
Do you frequently work with customers in Canada’s remote, isolated communities? Then delivery drones have exciting potential. These far-flung areas are often difficult or impossible to reach by road, which means that in the winter, residents depend on airlifted products. Since helicopter and small aircraft delivery services are extremely expensive — well over $1,500 per hour as of 2018, in some cases — the costs are often passed on to consumers. That means that prices for normal items can be three or four times what they are in towns and cities.
Here’s where drones can fly in to save the day. These small craft can shuttle loads of supplies and foods to cut-off communities for a fraction of the price of traditional methods. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on shipping costs, you could spend just a few dollars. When you don’t need to rely on traditional roads and transportation options, you would be able to deliver more frequently and to more people, a win-win for you and your clients.
Some drone companies are already testing this option in Canada. In 2017, Drone Delivery Canada ran test flights between the tiny town of Moosonee, Ontario, and the island community of Moose Factory. In the summer, residents get supplies from a boat that runs between the two towns. In the winter, Moose Factory uses an ice road; but when the ice weakens, residents are practically cut off. With drones, Drone Delivery Canada was able to deliver supplies to the island, even in cold temperatures and windy weather. In Canada’s extreme winters, this type of service could be lifesaving.
Before delivery drones become available to your small business, the automation systems and technology need further development. Many commercial drones have a range of 15 to 80 kilometers, which limits your delivery range. However, developers are looking into more powerful long-range models that could fly up to 15 hours at a time — which would allow you to reach far-flung customers with ease. These heavy-duty drones could carry nearly 1,500 kg, which is a practical way to provide large supply drops to remote communities.
Although delivery drones are not yet a possibility for small businesses, the technology is advancing rapidly. Soon, your company could take advantage of these small aircraft to reach more customers and save on shipping costs.