DHL has released the latest version of their Logistics Trend Report. The report breaks out two types of autonomous vehicles — aerial and ground.
The section on ground autonomous logistics is interesting and covers a lot of what we already know. DHL is using autonomous vehicles within warehouses. They will gradually move the vehicles into outdoor settings and then into uncontrolled environments (i.e. public streets) over time. Autonomous highway trucking will be important. The last mile problem will be the final issue to be resolved.
I was interested to see that DHL lists autonomous vehicles as having “high” potential impact on logistics, but they set the time frame as “> 5 years”.
The more interesting section, for me, was their overview of “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”. Note that this term subtly different from “autonomous” although the details don’t explore that distinction.
Many of the UAV points might seem obvious in retrospect, but I hadn’t thought of them before.
UAVs will basically become important for logistics in two scenarios:
- Where the value of a new service is high enough to justify the cost.
- Where the cost of an existing service is so high that it’s more economical to use UAVs than to continue the service.
An example of the first situation is aerial surveillance. The report states:
UAVs can monitor sites and assets to prevent theft and report suspected damage or maintenance requirements. They can also be used to coordinate major logistics operations on the ground.
An example of the second scenario is:
Rural delivery using UAVs is attractive for remote regions
that have limited logistics infrastructure or are hazardous
to access (e.g., islands during rough weather conditions,
villages located in mountain ranges). Logistics providers
can set up emergency delivery services (e.g., medicines)
for these communities.
It’s a brave new world ahead.