At this point, we’re all familiar with the push for electric trucks, but this opens up a lot of other possibilities. The nature of transportation is changing, even though the destinations and shipments remain largely the same. That means adapting a fleet to the evolving demands of shippers, consumers, and drivers themselves is on everyone’s mind! Of the many tools becoming available to transportation professionals, drones in the trucking industry are one of the most interesting technologies out there. Here we’ll explore a bit of how drones might one day become a regular part of trucking…
The shift is clear — whether you’re a consumer or a freight broker, mobile technology, and online commerce are altering how and when goods get shipped. We’ve already seen a considerable amount of innovations in how people prefer to purchase and receive goods over the internet. Free shipping, item tracking, and next day delivery options are now the norm — things that constituted premium add-ons only a decade ago. As drivers work to keep up, it’s clear they need new tools to meet the intense demands of consumers and shippers. That’s where drones in the trucking industry come into play…
Drones in the Trucking Industry:
The architecture of “last-mile” parcel delivery started with just a horse and rider, advancing to wagons, and finally the diesel truck. Now, the sheer volume of individual e-commerce packages makes for the perfect environment for drones to take over.
Drones in the trucking industry have remained a novel idea for quite some time, but now one company is taking the concept to its next level.
Workhorse Group has recently begun testing their Horsefly electric drone in concert with electric step vans as a means of exploring the feasibility of this model. Recently, the company successfully delivered a package to a rural home in Lithia, Florida with complete autonomy. All the driver had to do was launch the drone and continue driving to the next stop! Upon arriving, the drone lands itself on the roof of the truck and the cycle repeats.
It’s a relatively straightforward delivery, but it could have massive applications for every delivery carrier in the nation. Currently, the company is working with UPS on supplemental projects, including hybrid-electric and all-electric delivery trucks. Nonetheless, proof of concept is enough to anticipate drone-and-truck systems catching on in the not-so-distant future.
Benefits of Transportation Drones?
Some of the greatest advantages of this technology come through making deliveries to homes off of the main roads. Reaching secluded homes not only take more time, but the cost of fuel and maintenance make deliveries unfeasible for the long term. Additionally, UPS estimates that reducing just one mile per driver, per day, over one year can save up to $50 million. The use of drones can also create much more efficient delivery schedules in dense urban areas as well but free up a driver’s time.
Many still question the safety of having drones flying autonomously across residential areas. Still, after extensive testing and refinements over the years, the idea of scrambling drones from the top of delivery trucks is governed by Federal Aviation Administration rules. Drones must still fly within the “line of sight” of their operators, limiting just how many drones can be flown and how far they may travel. This is poised to stay the “law of the land” according to the FAA, although the public’s comfortability with drones in the trucking industry is certainly increasing.
While it’s unlikely that OTR truckers will need to compete with transcontinental drones for some time yet, the effect they’ll have on transportation is undeniable. What are your thoughts on drones in the trucking industry? Let us know in the comments below!