How Amazon is Integrating Drones into Their Supply Chain

Guest Post by Indiana Lee

Amazon has positioned itself at the forefront of innovative technology development and retail E-commerce. Considering the global scale at which they operate and their wide offering of goods and services, it stands to reason that Amazon’s supply chain must be extremely complex. This is why the company is taking steps towards a more technologically supportive, environmentally friendly, and efficient supply chain setup. One way Amazon is implementing this by integrating self-operating drones into their delivery service.

Drones seem to complicate and simplify their delivery service simultaneously. They do this by bringing safety concerns, artificial intelligence and machine learning into the mix, while, at the same time, eliminating excess delivery time and carbon emissions. This addition to the delivery process opens up new possibilities that one would never have thought possible.

Amazon has recently expanded into the healthcare E-commerce sector. The combination of 30-minute delivery times and health care supplies, both of which Amazon can provide, could be a great healthcare solution, solving the problem of being unable to procure urgent medical
supplies in dire times.

How Do These Drones Work?
Ten years ago, the idea of a self-piloted drone delivering a package to your doorstep within 30-minutes of your ordering and paying for it would have been beyond impossible. Due to the rapid rate at which technology is developing, however, this is now happening.

The 2019 MARS Conference in Las Vegas showcases Amazon’s new drone delivery program. Amazon’s new drones were shown to be able to take off and land vertically, much like a helicopter. At the same time, these drones can fly as an airplane would. These functionalities
are a result of Amazon’s new hybrid drone design. Furthermore, the unmanned vehicle is controlled by six degrees of freedom as opposed to the standard four degrees used in conventional drones, making it exceptionally stable, and perfectly suited for delivering goods.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are truly what make this possible. The major concern with drones is safety. An unmanned drone being let loose in the real world containing power lines, pets, and humans is a worrying idea. This is why Amazon has
developed advanced AI and machine learning technologies to make their drones “independently safe.”

These drones have many diverse AI checks that allow them to be continuously able to detect moving and static objects around them and proceed accordingly without the intervention of any human. This tested and retested “independent safety” aspect of the drone design provides
customers with some peace of mind. The question as to the security of their packages is, however, still up in the air. After all, what is to stop criminals from treating these drones as golden clay pigeons?

Benefits of Drones in the Supply Chain
As cutting-edge tech is molding the future of supply chains, integrating drones into the supply chain is a fantastic logistical solution. Drones contribute many advantages of improved supply chain management including higher efficiency, reduced cost effects, and quality assurance.

Drone delivery is much more efficient because it minimizes the time between order and delivery from 1-2 days to 30 minutes. This adds incredible value to the customer as it provides them with more flexibility in ordering. Decreasing the time length of the supply chain is also incredibly valuable for Amazon itself. The drone delivery solution is more cost-effective because it eliminates delivery truck driver and fuel costs altogether. This solution also reduces the company’s carbon footprint. These electric drones, powered by sustainable energy, have zero carbon emissions and reduce environmental costs tenfold.

Finally, the drone delivery solution encourages quality assurance. How so? According to Gur Kimchi, Amazon’s VP for its Prime Air program, “We control the aircraft technologies from the raw materials to the hardware, to software, to the structures, to the factory to the supply chain and eventually to the delivery.”

The Sky is the Limit
The new possibilities of drones in Amazon’s supply chain are seemingly unending. It makes their dream of a future of zero carbon emissions more of a reality, and it provides customers with a flexibility that is invaluable. The amount of shopping trips for essential items that can be eliminated is incredible. In addition, Amazon’s recent venture into Healthcare E-commerce makes the new possibilities even richer in value. For people with pressing healthcare needs who are unable to make a trip to the store themselves or who live in rural areas, drone delivery may be truly life-saving.

This new feat of Amazon’s is a major step forward in the world of supply chain management and technology development. If they are able to tweak their process and eliminate the concerns that surround the project, this may be the biggest innovation to e-commerce and supply chain management yet.

*Cover image: Pixabay