How Will Drones Impact the Supply Chain?

David Lemay08 Jan 2023

Some people love them, while others hate them, nevertheless, drones are becoming increasingly popular as a means to ease the supply chain burden for many retailers. Some people made fun of Amazon's plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for product delivery. Yet the popularity of drones today has led to a surge of interest from businesses that want to employ them for managing inventory and sorting processes within their facilities.

How are Drones Used in the Supply Chain?

The speed with which new technologies are brought to market is causing a widespread change in the business sector around the world. To stay ahead of the competition, many corporations are switching to automation by implementing autonomous technology. Drones, once reserved for the military, are already finding use in areas as varied as logistics.

As more businesses place a premium on maximizing efficiency throughout the entire supply chain, the drone market is poised to explode. Drone delivery services will become commonplace in the logistics industry soon. 

Logistics, operations, and distribution are just a few of the fields that can benefit from the deployment of drones. Here's how drones can help:

  • Drones can transport goods or bring customers their orders. This is especially true for delivery in the final mile in congested urban areas.
  • After a disaster, infrastructures can be inspected remotely using drones to determine the level of danger.
  • Drones can be used for massive area logistics security monitoring in places like warehouses and factories.
  • Infrastructures can be evaluated using drones to check needed repairs to docks, terminals, and warehouse rooftops.
  • Pallet scanning in warehouses with the use of a drone helps operations check stock and locate missing items in hard-to-reach places.
  • Data gathering via drone video and stills during inventory audits.

The increasing popularity of online shopping provides compelling evidence in favor of using drones for shipments. However, technical constraints such as payload capacity, battery life, and flight stability in rough weather all need to be taken into account. Furthermore, due to regulatory and legislative concerns about data privacy and safety, widespread adoption of drone delivery for last-mile deliveries can be challenging.

However, supply chain inventory management still benefits from the use of these copters. Since indoor commercial drone use is not controlled, they can be employed for these purposes. Distribution centers, warehouses, air cargo operations, order fulfilment centers, and third-party logistics (3PL) facilities are all places where unmanned drones can be easily incorporated into operations.

What are the Leading Drones in the Supply Chain?

Drone delivery services have seen significant growth as a result of the rising demand for contactless deliveries. In case you didn't know, nearly 20,000 unmanned aerial vehicles are currently doing retail deliveries. In addition, the FAA has records of over 500,000 commercially operated drones, many of which are employed in warehousing, transportation, and delivery. Drone delivery of packages is projected to rise from $528 million in 2020 to $39 billion in 2030, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53.8%, according to a recent analysis. Drone delivery will not only cut last-mile delivery costs by 70% but also improve energy efficiency.

Several well-known logistics providers are among the drone industry's frontrunners. Last-mile delivery drone initiatives are currently in development by Alphabet (Wing), Amazon (Prime Air), FedEx (Wing collaboration), DHL (Parcelcopter), and UPS (Flight Forward). Currently, these businesses are focusing on delivering products that weigh less than 5 pounds, while Walmart is adopting a somewhat different strategy by forming partnerships with other drone businesses, such as Flytrex and Zipline, that are doing delivery pilot programs. 

Zipline is carrying much-needed medical supplies to outlying locations in countries with laxer rules. Drone Delivery Canada, like Boeing, is focused on transporting heavy loads, with a maximum range of 124 miles and a cargo capacity of up to 396 pounds. Delivery from depot to depot is a frequent use case for larger cargo drones because it is less controlled. Site surveys and raw material finding are two other forms of monitoring that employ drones. Remote area surveys can be done more efficiently and cheaply with these technologies, while also increasing the safety of the workers.

How Drones Could Change the Shipping Industry

The logistics business is seeing fast transformation as new technology is integrated into shipping operations. Mobile applications, GPS tracking, automated trucks, and many other amazing technologies are radically altering the landscape of the commercial shipping industry. Drone delivery is the last item on the long list of technological advancements. It is common knowledge that drone shipping has the potential to revolutionize the logistics sector in ways we have yet to fully comprehend.

Fast Delivery

Sending packages using a drone is much quicker than driving them. Time is saved because UAVs take faster, more direct routes. Drones in the sky travel relatively quickly because they fly in a straight line. Since there aren't any constraints on the typical rapid logistics shipment routes, the flying speed is likewise fairly quick.

Lower Operating Cost

It takes a substantial investment to begin using unmanned transportation systems. But in the long run, the cost of maintaining it will be much cheaper than that of more conventional methods of delivery. While the cost of personnel is expected to climb with time, the cost of operating and maintaining autonomous distribution equipment is minimal.

The last mile of delivery accounts for roughly 40% of the total cost. It has been predicted by researchers that utilizing drones to transport goods in cities would soon be cheaper than using people.

Access to Hard-to-Reach Areas

Drone deliveries have been especially helpful for serving communities that are remote or otherwise hard to reach. It has been put to service transporting critically essential materials, such as medications and medical devices, to those in need.

Zipline, a company that uses drones to carry packages, has recently begun sending lifesaving medications to outlying regions of Rwanda and Ghana. Because of the poor road networks in rural Africa, the company's technology was initially developed there. Due to UAVs, shipping times have been slashed in half, from four hours to twenty minutes.


Those in the field of sustainable logistics are always looking for new ways to reduce their impact on the environment, save money on fuel costs, and fight climate change. Reduced carbon emissions and traffic congestion are two more benefits of switching to air delivery. When compared to ground-based delivery solutions, drones provide significant environmental benefits.

Drones are no longer a surreal technology seen only in the movies. Major retailers and large businesses are likely to invest in drones in the near future and before we know it, drones will be taking over the skies. Who knows? Your next order might just be delivered by a drone.

David Lemay

David Lemay

I'm David Lemay, a lover of tech and have had an interest in drones for years. Bought my first few drones, before I started building my own. I want to share my passion with others, so I started this site to help others who want to get into the hobby.

Comments (0)