Urban Logistics Will Soon Fly High With More Drone Deliveries For Quick Commerce

Gone are the times when we would just imagine having our online shopping package delivered by a drone. A report by The Financial Express suggests that with the rapid expansion of quick commerce in urban areas, and the equivalent expansion of technology to support operations, one could see drones handle nearly 30% of all q-commerce deliveries. The report talks about the prospects of drone deliveries in major cities by 2027 and cites substantial advantages drone deliveries offer to q-commerce enterprises.

According to the report, drones can cut delivery times by up to 50% and slash costs by 30% for q-commerce businesses. It mentioned that many 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) companies are also exploring opportunities via drone startups considering that operating costs for drone delivery services are significantly lower, ranging from 40-70% compared to traditional vehicle delivery services.

Relatively straightforward, drone delivery requires startups to establish sky pods in residential areas, where drones that are capable of carrying parcels weighing up to 10 kg land. A delivery executive, known as a skywalker, is stationed at these pods to pick up the parcels and deliver them to customers’ homes.

For instance, Skye Air, a drone startup, has collaborated with around four logistics firms to deliver packages to residential communities in Gurgaon. The company has established sky pods in more than 70 mapped residential areas. Currently, drones are actively servicing three of these communities, handling around 1,000 packages daily. The startup aims to increase this capacity to over 10,000 packages per day across more than 100 residential communities in the National Capital Region (NCR) by the end of the year.

For Skye Air Mobility, the goal is to make last-mile logistics faster, more sustainable, more efficient, and cost-effective.

Drone deliveries are also proving to be environmentally friendly. Each package delivered by a drone can reduce carbon emissions by around 520 grams. So if 1,000 deliveries are made daily, nearly 80 tonnes of carbon emissions can be saved.

To support the efforts of drone startups and logistics companies, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is expected to introduce several initiatives to accelerate the mainstream adoption of drones. Currently, drones are permitted for various services such as vaccine delivery, inspection of oil pipelines and power transmission lines, anti-locust operations, agricultural spraying, surveying mines, and land mapping.

In August 2023, e-commerce enablement unicorn Shiprocket started drone delivery trials, currently handling over 5,000 monthly deliveries in Gurugram. Such trials ultimately provide crucial data to enhance delivery systems for better efficiency and reliability. Drones are also being tested for same-day delivery (SDD) and next-day delivery (NDD) services.

Similarly, Ecom Express is leveraging drone technology to enhance delivery speed, improve efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions. The company is performing around 150 to 200 drone deliveries daily as part of its trials across categories such as beauty, personal care, medicine, and fashion. Following the successful completion of the pilot phase, Ecom Express plans to extend its drone delivery services to additional pin codes in Gurgaon and subsequently to other major cities, including Bengaluru and Chandigarh.

Another startup, Garuda Aerospace, intends to deploy nearly 6,000 to 8,000 drones this year. These drones will provide agricultural and logistics services across 400 districts.

As quick commerce continues to grow in urban areas, the integration of drone deliveries is becoming more feasible and appealing. The potential benefits in terms of cost savings, efficiency, and environmental impact are significant. With ongoing trials and increasing adoption, the vision of drones buzzing across city skies, delivering packages swiftly and sustainably, is not far from reality. As regulations evolve and technology advances, drone deliveries are set to play a pivotal role in transforming the landscape of urban logistics.

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