The emergence of cargo drones is set to radically improve the cargo and transportation sector, as they are able to offer autonomous quality service 24 hours a day, the yearly World Congress of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Association (Fiata), has heard.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Aeronautics and Astronautics Professor Wesley Harris explained the benefits of huge, industrial quality drones that are able to move heavy containers.
The opportunities presented by these driverless, freight delivery drones would be “reduced costs, reduced time to delivery, reduced environmental impact and transport on demand”, Harris said at the Fiata World Congress in Cape Town on Wednesday.
There is still some resistance to drones. “In urban areas, drones with propellers make a noise, and people living in urban areas may not like seeing drones flying about,” said Harris.
However, he said that in areas like ports, drones could make a major difference in efficiency, with opportunities for security, inspection, mapping, traffic management, personnel management and inventory control.
The way trucks are deployed could become far more efficient, with savings in time and money.
Harris said the future in trucks would include driverless platoons of trucks. Analysis has shown that trucks that drive in packs could save both time and fuel and offer greater fuel economy due to reduced air resistance. On longer highway trips, vehicles could be mostly unattended while in following mode.
“With drones, you can monitor the location of autonomous trucks. You can also get them into a queue and operating at their most efficient rate,” said Harris.
Drones would be able to carry different containers according to drone lift, drone drag, the drone battery energy that is used and drone weight.
As technology improves, the scope of drones will widen further.
Various start-ups like Natilus, Volans-i, Matternet and Zipline believe the solution lies in autonomous flying drones that can carry goods, heavy cargo and are able to fly long distances to deliver products, supplies and medical samples.
Fiata acting director-general Stephen Morris sees cargo drones as the necessary tool that will transform the global air freight industry, especially on the African continent where many remain cut off from modern infrastructure.
“Drone deliveries occur in a fraction of the time that more traditional modes are able to. As demand for delivery continues to increase due to the rise of e-commerce, it cannot be denied that drones will play a major role in many sectors in the future.”
DRONAMICS Global CEO and co-founder Svilen Rangelov, believes drones will contribute to transportation in the same way that the Internet contributed to communication and payment. “Heavy-lifting cargo drones will be able to mitigate a number of challenges within the logistics industry.”
Global organisation, Fiata, represents the interests of the freight and logistics industry, covering about 40 000 forwarding and logistics companies, employing approximately ten-million people in 150 countries.