As anti-drone sentiment mounts and regulation remains strict, retailers and customers alike are left wondering what the is the potential for drone delivery.
Drone fulfilment is a hot topic. Retailers are excited by the technology, as are logistics and fulfilment providers. With shipping the primary cost concern for both retailers and customers, drone technology has the potential to shake up the entire online retail sector.
However, not everyone is as excited. Flight Safety Australia has reported that concerns about rogue drone operators have entered a new phase, with companies developing “anti-drone” weapons to neutralise perceived threats.
While the weapons, which include electronic-scanning radar, electro-optical tracking and directional RF inhibition with directional antennas, are primarily being developed to neutralise drones engaged in hostile airbourne surveillance and potentially malicious activity.
The technology comes on the back of countless reports of drones operating in off-limit airspace such as airports, sports stadiums, over prisons, and even over the Whitehouse.
Earlier this year, Power Retail reported that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had revealed its proposed rules for small commercial drones, with the proposals being more lenient than expected, particularly for smaller retailers. The FAA’s proposed rules are considerably more lenient than the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s guidelines, which have been described as the world’s toughest. According to the Fairfax Media, Australia is one of the few countries to strictly regulate increasing commercial drone use.
However, Flight Safety Australia states that “regulators often struggle to prosecute rule breakers due to the anonymous nature of the technology, with reports of illegal flying often lacking the sufficient evidence for prosecution.”
To what extent the uncertain legislative environment, negative publicity and anti-drone sentiment will affect the uptake of drone technology by retailers and fulfilment providers is uncertain. However, at this stage interest remains strong.
Last year, Power Retail reported on drone delivery trails managed by Google X. Earlier this year, Switzerland’s postal service started testing drone delivery, Fastway Couriers partnered with Flirtey to trial New Zealand’s first parcel delivery by drone, and every major online retailer from Amazon to The Iconic has investigated, if not invested in, drone technology.
Whatever the outcome, the emergence of drone technology in the online retail space is one of the most exciting (and coolest) developments and a potential game changer for retailers, fulfilment providers and customers.