The Industrial Revolution opened the door for robotic technology to become a pivotal part of everyday business, as it helped to facilitate business owners and optimized their operations. Today, technologies have traveled to a new frontier and robotics remains the main driving force that steadily pushes several industries into the future.
We would like to take a step into the dawn of technological advancement with an introduction of robotics technologies that have taken the airfreight logistics’ supply chain to its new boundary.
Robotics Is the Answer
According to a 2016 survey by comScore and UPS, consumers purchase half of their goods online. The survey shows a growing number of online shoppers of 3% and 4%, comparing to 2015 and 2014 respectively. Another study published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested that buyers spent about £1 billion a week with online UK retailers in February of 2017. Which represents a +20.7% increase compared to the same period in the prior year.
The rise of online shopping and tempting free-of-charge rapid delivery promotions from E-Commerce companies, added with the COVID-19 lockdown which forced people to stay inside, has led to an overwhelming demand for fast delivery services.
This allowed robotics technology to shine its light throughout the airfreight supply chain, whether in the form of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Warehouse Automation systems. Under this overly demanding situation, robotics entered the scene as the ultimate solution that helps conduct safe, consistent, and efficient transportation.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or drones are remote-controlled aircraft. Coming in various sizes and shapes, drones are playing a major role in airfreight logistics today, as they are capable of delivering essential cargo such as food and pharmaceutical in wilderness or disaster areas, and other areas inaccessible to manual aircraft.
Many technology companies and leading express forwarders are now joining the race to push drone technology to its limits, as they aim to provide unmatched services to customers through optimized operations.
Recently, Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), a designer and developer of drone technology announced that they will begin the commercialization of the ‘Condor’, a drone with a lifting capability of 180kgs (400lbs) of payload. It was designed to carry approximately 20 cubic feet of cargo with a multi-package payload compartment and will operate with a speed of 120 km/h and a travel range of 200 km.
The Company commenced Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight testing last summer at the Foremost UAS Test Range in Alberta, Canada.
At the same time, DDC also completed a commercial agreement with Vision Profile Extrusions Limited (Vision), a leading manufacturer, to implement the drone system on Vision’s operations for several areas in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.
Meanwhile, DB Schenker a global logistics solution provider, recognized an opportunity to elevate their cargo transportation and logistics services, and invested in developing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) technology. UAM is an urban cargo transporting aircraft belonging to the company; Volocopter. DB is aiming to develop the UAM for commercial transporting services for heavy cargo.
On the other side of the world, Japan Airlines (JAL) have met with success in the test to deliver fresh fish from Shinkamigoto, Japan to a restaurant in Tokyo, with assistance from Nagasaki’s government sector.
In the test, JAL transported a cold storage box, full of fish, from Kamigoto Airport to Ojika Airport, which are 46 km apart. This delivery was considered to be the first delivery trial between local airports with a drone involved.
As for readily available drone services, Wing , a cargo drone developer and a subsidiary of Alphabet, became the first company to ever provide commercial drone transportation. They are delivering packages, over-the-counter medication, snacks, and gifts to residents of Christiansburg, Virginia.
Alphabet also succeeded in delivering beverages to customers in Bonython, Canberra, Australia. Coffee lovers in the Canberra area can order their drinks via an application which will be sent to a local drive-thru shop, Kickstart Espresso.
Today, automation technology is considered to be an essential component for warehouses across the globe. It helps workers to deliver safe and accurate operations.
One of the examples for automation technology applied to the logistics industry and air freight supply chain reflects upon Deutsche Post DHL Group (DHL)‘s warehouse optimization in 2016. It took a further step into the future with a trial of Rethink Robotics‘s artificial intelligence robots in its facilities across Europe.
The robots, ‘Baxter’ and ‘Sawyer,’ are equipped with sets of robotic arms, screen faces with complex vision systems, force-sensing systems, and advanced machine-learning software. DHL’s purposes for these robots were mainly to assist their workforces in packaging and warehouse managing.
Later on, in late 2018, DHL’s North American wing announced its plan to invest $300 million in robotics and automation across 350 facilities.