When most of us think of drones, we think about them being used for capturing landscape photography. And don’t get us wrong, they are great with that. However, UAVs can do a lot more. Farmers use them to check on their crops, utilities to inspect their systems, and insurance companies send out drones to evaluate the damage after a storm.
While all of these applications are great, one stands out the most. Yes, we are talking about transportation. In fact, this sector is the leader in the development and revolution of drones. Thanks to it, we can see technology evolving in front of our eyes. Let us see why this is and how drones are reshaping the future of transportation.
There’s a reason why drones are chosen as the next frontier for transportation. No matter if you are moving passengers or cargo, the ground is not a very efficient place to do it. The infrastructure simply can not keep up with the demand and needs. Traffic congestion builds up, and it makes logistics a nightmare. And every year, things get worse because too much time is wasted in transit.
If you live in a big city, you know what we’re talking about. It is not a secret that you sometimes need hours to travel just a couple of miles in New York or Los Angeles.
So, the solution is going up. For many years, people had been dreaming about air taxis that will take them anywhere they want to go. And now, these dreams are becoming a reality. However, an even more interesting thing is that cargo is going up as well.
Although big companies like Google and Amazon were the first to start experimenting with cargo drones, they are not the only ones anymore. Lots of smaller businesses decided to get into the game and join the fun. On the Verified Movers website, there are a few relocation companies that are planning to make drone moving a thing. So, the next time you relocate, it might happen via air, even if you’re moving just a couple of blocks away.
Since 2019, drone deliveries have been happening all around the US. Most of the time, companies use UAVs to deliver small packages to the doorsteps of their customers. To do the last-mile delivery by ground, you need to have lots of vehicles and employees. However, drones do everything themselves, so they make the job of logistics managers a lot easier.
On top of that, they can reach the places a van never could. Therefore, they are ideal for emergency deliveries of medicine and groceries in rural areas. They are also quicker, which puts the accent on the emergency part of the story.
However, the future of cargo drones is not only in last-mile delivery. Some companies are working on autonomous cargo aircraft that could carry up to 1,000 pounds of goods. These will be used for transporting cargo between warehouses, and they are predicted to reshape the middle-mile logistics. People will also be able to use them as delivery vehicles for bigger payloads. So, we might have to add a few new benefits of drones in the construction industry when UAVs start bringing in the materials.
However, the future of cargo drones is not only in last-mile delivery. Some companies are working on autonomous cargo aircraft that could carry up to 1,000 pounds of goods. These will be used for transporting cargo between warehouses, and they’re predicted to reshape the middle-mile logistics. People will also be able to use them as delivery vehicles for bigger payloads. So, we might have to add a few new benefits of drones in the construction industry when UAVs start bringing in the materials.
Challenges that we must pass.
It is not too difficult to understand why a drone-powered future is an exciting proposition. Experts suggest that the 2020s will be the decade of advanced aerial mobility. And we are already here, so in just a few years, our skies might be full of little buzzers doing their jobs. However, to get there, we still have some challenges that we must beat, such as:
- Airspace deconfliction
Currently, almost all commercial drones are operated by pilots. These people must maintain the visual line of sight and control what the aircraft is doing from the ground. But to scale up the use of drones for cargo transport, we need some level of autonomy.
A human should be in the loop. However, UAVs must be able to fly further, detect, and avoid obstacles on their own. Special sensors and radars are being developed for this purpose. They exist, but they need to be scaled down to fit on the drones without compromising their abilities.
We already congested our roads, so we can expect to see a similar thing happening in the sky. Although it will not be nearly as much prominent, it is still a complicated problem. Drones will need to communicate with each other in real-time to avoid collisions.
The solution for this problem also exists, but the existing systems need to be improved and standardized. We’ll have to teach the drones how to safely operate in urban areas on their own and do all the things that the pilots are doing now.
To work as they should in the departments of logistics and transport, UAVs must know where they are and how to get where they are going. Therefore, they need a way to navigate themselves.
And you will all say, well, GPS. However, GPS is far from perfect. It has trouble working in dense urban environments, and because of this, it is not enough. In addition it, drones will be using internal navigation systems. They will determine the location via motion sensors systems that are being developed.
Engineers are taking advantage of lightweight materials, 3D printing, and electric power to maximize performance. And the most important of these three things is the latest.
All the new cargo drones will have to be electric. This type of power is the cleanest, but it also offers the best maneuverability. Also, the risk of anything going wrong is much lower as opposed to gas power. It is a safe and reliable way of doing it right.
Conclusion Although we still have a long way to go, the future of cargo drones looks very bright. All the problems we talked about are more than trivial. However, thanks to investments and advancements in science, we are solving them one by one. As things are right now, we will see drones more and more every year. So, the 2020s might be the golden age of flight.