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2030's Fast Shipment Solution: Drones

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Of the last-mile delivery technology solutions, autonomous vehicles paired with drones show the most promise.

Lux Research has released a report, entitled, “Automating the Last Mile,” which explores how the rising demand of quick delivery is pushing companies to explore automated delivery technologies for the last leg of the delivery journey.

Further reading: The next normal—commerce to connectivity.

The main automated last-mile delivery technology categories are: drones, legged robots, wheeled robots and autonomous vehicles.

As the e-commerce market, which is expected to reach $665 billion by 2030, continues fueling rapid growth in delivery volumes, consumers are increasingly expecting parcels to be delivered quickly.

“Automating the Last Mile” predicts that automated last-mile deliveries will generate up to $48.4 billion in revenue by 2030, even though automated deliveries will only address 20% of all parcel deliveries.

Lux forecasts that the market for parcel delivery will grow from a total of 107 billion parcels delivered in 2019, generating $350 billion in revenue, to 289 billion parcel deliveries in 2030, generating $665 billion in revenue, resulting in a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5% in parcel count and 5.8% in market value.

Of the last-mile delivery technology solutions, autonomous vehicles paired with drones show the most promise, with Lux Research expecting them to deliver more than 20 billion parcels a year by 2030.

Drones are currently limited to a small delivery radius, but this range can be extended by deploying them from a moving autonomous vehicle. Drone deliveries will be limited to uncongested rural areas, which have the lowest regulatory barriers to aviation.

Wheeled robots are easier to develop than autonomous vehicles but are only feasible on college campuses where the incumbent delivery method is walking or bicycling. These deliveries are expected to account for only 1.5 billion deliveries annually by 2030.

E-commerce companies globally have announced multibillion-dollar supply chain investments aimed at promising faster deliveries. Fulfillment center workflow optimizations, including automated picking and packing solutions, are crucial for shortening delivery times.

“Most of this e-commerce growth is expected to come from Asia because China and India still have a relatively low amount of parcel deliveries per capita,” Lux Research senior analyst Chris Robinson said.

“Robot-as-a-service business models are emerging in startups developing last-mile automated delivery technologies,” Lux Research analyst Josh Kern said. “Large companies that can invest in and develop their own technologies are not expected to use these services, but logistics companies and retailers with no experience in robotics likely will.”

Robinson concluded, “Today this is mostly manual, but advancements in robotic grippers, machine vision, and collaborative robotics are all improving the ability to automate these tasks.”