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Delivering the goods: Drones and robots are making their way to your door

Published on December 17, 2019

Test flight of a drone in 2013.
Drone First Test Flight, 2013. Image Credit: Richard Unten. CC BY 2.0

The reality today is that delivery is a bigger business than ever. With online shopping, it’s estimated the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS will process, sort and deliver more than two billion packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Amazon’s own fleet of delivery trucks is expected to handle 275 million holiday season shipments.

And Amazon is pushing the delivery envelope, offering Prime members free one-day shipping.

Anne Goodchild, director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington, said companies find they must offer free delivery now to be competitive. Yet, it is expensive to deliver stuff: “Yeah, and it’s never free, right? It costs money. The question is, where do you get that money from?”

The growth in home delivery is focusing attention on what logistics experts call “the last mile.”

“They don’t mean literally a mile; they mean the last piece of this supply chain,” Goodchild said. “And the reason it’s interesting is it’s the most expensive mile of the whole thing. I’ve seen estimates of more than 50% of the cost is from that last mile. So, it’s expensive because it’s labor-intensive. There’s a driver who takes every package up to the front door.”

It’s estimated that free shipping will cost Amazon more than a billion dollars this quarter alone. Which explains why shippers are looking at some radical new technologies to cut the cost of the last mile.


Continue reading at CBS News.

Originally written by John Goodwin for CBS News.
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