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Deliveries in Two Minutes? Wing Pilots Drone Deliveries in Queensland
Forget next-day delivery or even same-day services. Drone deliveries have taken off at a shopping centre in Queensland. In partnership with Vicinity Centres, Wing is piloting an on-demand drone delivery service from the roof of Queensland’s Grand Plaza.
The need for reliable, speedy and convenient deliveries has never been greater, and Wing’s drone service aims to reduce the strain of last-mile delivery for consumers. Wing is delivering for businesses in the centre, including Boost Juice, TerryWhite Chemmart, Chatime and SushiHub, with more being added at a later date.
Since its launch in mid-August, more than 2,500 contactless drone deliveries have been sent to shoppers in Southeast Queensland. This isn’t the first time that Wing has used drone deliveries in Australia. In fact, more than 50,000 deliveries have been made using drones in Logan, Queensland.
“We’re delighted to explore this new model of delivery with Vicinity Centres,” said Jesse Suskin, the Head of Policy & Community Affairs, Australia, at Wing. “For the first time, we are co-locating our drones with businesses at their premises, rather than local businesses having to co-locate their goods with us at our delivery facility.”
“With the increase in consumers’ desire for convenience and speed, on-demand drone delivery can help address the costly last-mile delivery challenge, reduce road congestion and emissions, and create new economic opportunities for businesses by utilising their existing retail space as logistics hubs and fulfilment centres.”
What makes drone delivery services an enticing option for retailers, particularly multichannel and pureplay, in the future?
The retail industry is changing, and drone delivery has the potential to become an important part of Australia’s retail sector, particularly in fulfilling last-mile deliveries. Drone delivery can save businesses and consumers in Australia time and money, while also helping to reduce emissions and ease road congestion. By using existing, traditionally underutilised retail space, like rooftops, retailers can expand their access to drone delivery without needing any additional real estate and co-locating with a retailer allows them to deliver directly to their customers — meaning more delivery offerings and expanded reach, at a fraction of the cost of existing ground delivery methods.
Last-mile delivery is one of the most costly segments of the supply chain, accounting for 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of retail transactions in the form of delivery fees or the time spent by consumers picking up their goods. A consumer drone delivery service like Wing can help make last-mile delivery more efficient and more sustainable for both retailers and consumers. It’s estimated that by 2030 if drones were to deliver four to six percent of household purchases, retail sales in Australia would grow by $2.2 billion. Because almost every business has a roof, our new rooftop delivery model opens up the possibility for more businesses to offer drone delivery services with little additional cost or added infrastructure.
Are there any misconceptions about drone delivery?
For many, drone delivery is something they think may happen in the future, but the reality is it's already happening right now. Wing is operating live, automated drone delivery services in Australia, Finland and the U.S, and making thousands of deliveries each week to customers, on-demand. Our operation in Queensland, Australia is the largest residential drone delivery service in the world, available daily to 19 suburbs with a population of more than 110,000 people. To date, we’ve made more than 100,000 deliveries to customers on-demand, on top of hundreds of thousands of additional test flights. These deliveries have primarily been made directly to homes, but also to office buildings, and we’ve even delivered to customers on-demand in public parks.
Perhaps what’s most exciting about the growth of our operations, particularly in Logan, Queensland is that there are hundreds of cities around the world of similar size: New Orleans, USA, Manchester, England or Florence, Italy, just to name a few. More than two billion people around the world live in cities with populations of fewer than 500,000. The success in Logan implies a not-too-distant future in which similar high-volume drone delivery services could be replicated in similar cities, and even larger metro areas, around the world.
Do you expect drone delivery to become an integral part of the Australian retail space in the future? If so, how long do you expect it to take before drones become a normal part of the last-mile strategy?
We believe drone delivery will be a significant part of the future of retail’s last-mile delivery. The retail industry is changing, and drone delivery can offer an opportunity for businesses to use their existing, traditionally underutilised retail space, like rooftops, and expand their customer reach without needing any additional real estate. Co-locating drone delivery with businesses allows retailers to deliver directly to their customers — meaning more delivery offerings and expanded reach, at a fraction of the cost of existing ground delivery methods.
Wing started our first drone deliveries to residents in the Logan community in 2019. It’s safe to say that over the past two years, the demand for drone delivery has only accelerated since then, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased customer demand for Wing’s contactless drone delivery service. Wing saw a 500 percent increase in deliveries worldwide in 2020 over 2019, and we’ve continued to grow at a similar rate in 2021; we completed more deliveries globally in the third quarter of 2021 than in the entire year of 2020.
Are there any setbacks for retailers and businesses that wish to implement drone deliveries that they should know? What are some of the benefits of introducing drone delivery for retailers and shoppers?
Drone delivery provides a number of benefits for retailers and shoppers, including; expanding business reach to new customers, increasing customers' access to more goods, faster and more environmentally friendly delivery than traditional delivery methods, and reduced shipping and delivery costs.
With the increase in consumers’ desire for convenience and speed, on-demand drone delivery will play an integral part in the delivery ecosystem, particularly in helping address the costly last-mile delivery challenge and creating new economic opportunities for businesses by utilising their existing retail space as logistics hubs and fulfilment centres. Furthermore, drone delivery is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to deliver products, as last-mile delivery of small items typically occurs by using a truck or car. Our drones are battery-powered and require very little energy. It typically takes more energy to boil a jug of water than to power our drone for delivery.’
Wing drones are custom-designed to deliver packages safely, reliably and very quickly. Our aircraft has a wingspan of about 1.5 metres and weighs about 5 kilograms. It can carry packages around 1.5 kilograms in weight, at speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour. Once a customer submits an order via the Wing drone delivery app our drone flies to pick up the package at our delivery facility. The drone then climbs to a cruise height on average of about 45 metres above ground, flying to the designated delivery destination in several minutes.
Once at the customer destination, the drone slows down, hovers, descends to a delivery height of seven metres above ground, and then lowers the tether and automatically releases the package in the desired delivery area. There is no need to unclip or assist with the delivery of the package. The drone then climbs back to cruise height and returns to the Wing site. Our fastest delivery time to date, from order to delivery at the customer’s house is two minutes and 47 seconds.
Can drone delivery be used with any retailer? What may be some of the limitations that retailers should know?
We deliver for more than two dozen businesses in Australia at the moment, and we’re excited to connect with local businesses and national partners to learn about how we can help them reach more customers faster, safer and more sustainably. If a business owner in Logan or Canberra is interested in participating in our service, we encourage them to get in touch with us here.
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