Drones, robots, and other contactless methods will transform delivery as we know it

Technology |  2 min. read
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For decades, pizza, packages and daily mail were the limit of most deliveries direct to consumers’ homes. That has changed rapidly over the past ten years, as the speed of delivery technology has massively increased.

Most Americans now take for granted that anything purchased on Amazon or Walmart websites can be at their door in two days or fewer, or that they can get groceries or a meal from their favorite restaurant with a few taps on a smartphone app.

With the impact of COVID-19 forcing many Americans to shelter-in-place, consumers and companies are looking for quicker, more cost-efficient ways to increase delivery speeds and improve so-called ‘contactless’ systems. More and more, drones and robots – utilizing advanced materials such as high-tech, fiber-reinforced composites that make them light and durable – are the answer. These polymers start with the petrochemical propylene for the carbon fibers and propylene and benzene for the polycarbonate epoxy, demonstrating another way that petrochemical manufacturers are innovating toward a consumer-friendly future.

New technologies bridge barriers

While drones have become an increasingly common tool in agriculture, security and entertainment, this technology is emerging as a key opportunity in the delivery game.

Retailers are working on drone-based delivery systems that would cut the time from order to doorstep down to minutes or hours rather than days. This has the potential not just to improve quality of life but to also increase consumer demand from these online retailers. As the technology becomes more ubiquitous and costs drop, brick and mortar stores could also find drones to be a useful way to connect with customers in their area.

In numerous cities across the United States, robot delivery vehicles are already traveling down sidewalks in test runs, delivering consumer goods and takeout meals. Though limited in range and environment, they also offer a way for local restaurants and shops to deliver directly to their local customer base, which is a game changer – not just during a pandemic.

Serving rural and mobility-challenged consumers

In rural communities, the last miles from a distribution center to doorstep have remained a significant barrier to much of the delivery progress. Nevertheless, drones have the potential to change that situation.

While the greater distances might require gas-powered engines rather than the battery packs common in personal-use drones, these types of machines already exist and are in use. This approach could help address rising delivery costs for an increasingly suburban and exurban population.

Amazingly, drones are also being used in several African countries to help move supplies of critically needed blood donations between medical centers. While countries currently using this system, Ghana and Rwanda, are not particularly large in land area, larger distances could be covered with gas-powered drones, connecting isolated communities in need.

Harnessing the power of unmanned technologies is not a new phenomenon, though it will only become more prevalent in our daily lives in coming years. Manufactured using petrochemical-derived polymers, these machines are covering new ground and changing the delivery field, as we know it.

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