Drones in the realm of micro-logistics
What is micro-logistics with respect to logistics? Logistics is a complex operation for getting supplies from one point to another. It involves, among other things, the movement of goods. At the macro-level, what comes to mind is a complex network of trucks, train, ships and aircraft moving material. This can be quite time and energy consuming.
The notion of micro-logistics revolves around the series of finer operations associated with delivery to the final destination, the customer. Within cities, this is often seen as the last-mile delivery, usually achieved by small vehicles, with all the challenges associated with dense traffic, parking, etc. Outside of urban centers, reaching clients far away is demanding. This is particularly challenging in developing nations where the road infrastructure is deficient.
It is in the realm of micro-logistics that drones will be most useful. Their use has already been demonstrated by Amazon and others.
One of the most impressive illustrations of their potential is the delivery of medication to remote locations in Africa. So, what’s the hold up?
What is holding back their broad application is technical, regulatory and legal in nature. From the technical point of view, essentially, the flying vehicles are available. But their ability to fly autonomously, beyond line-of-sight, must be radically improved (obstacle avoidance really). This problem is way more difficult to solve than for autonomous cars for which lots of progress has been made, since the airborne environment is unstructured compared to roads. Regulations are very restrictive now and will remain so until safety issues are better addressed. Legal issues are of the same nature as for autonomous cars and systems.
But their time will come, sooner than later. Done right, they have the potential to reduce cost, improve productivity (profits), speed-up delivery, reach otherwise inaccessible locations, reduce congestion in cities, reduce deleterious environmental effects and more. One can imagine a future where already fully robotic warehouses will process orders and hand them over to an available drone that will take off immediately for delivery, all without human intervention.
This is not to say that their potential will be achieved easily. As an example, competing against small electric vehicles making multiple deliveries on an optimized path throughout cities is quite cost effective. But still, in the realm of micro-logistics, drones will be a key element of the system.
About the author
Denis Faubert, who earned his Ph.D. in Laser Physics from Université Laval, is the President and CEO of both the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) and the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec (CRIAQ).
Mr. Faubert has had an impressive career at a number of applied research institutions. Previously, he was the General Manager of the Hydro-Quebec Research Institute (IREQ). Within Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), he served as Director General of the Valcartier Research Centre and Director General of the National Research Program.Mr. Faubert is very involved in aerospace and cross-sectoral innovation.
He serves on many committees and projects, including the Green Aviation Research & Development Network Board (GARDN), National Optics Institute (INO) and Aéro Montréal and other national bodies. He is a member of the International Technology Advisory Board of the IRT St-Exupéry in France.
Denis Faubert has received many distinctions, including the National Research Council’s prestigious Centennial Award, Deputy Minister of National Defense’s Innovation Award (2005) and Université Laval’s Faculty of Science Summa-Carrière Award (2008).
About the CRIAQ’s Rendez-Vous Forum
The 9th CRIAQ Research Forum, renamed this year the CRIAQ’s Rendez-vous Forum, will be held on April 18 & 19, 2018 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. The event will bring together the entire aerospace community to engage in an open innovation process with the goal of giving birth to collaborative research and development projects. Leaders of the aerospace industry and researchers affiliated with universities, colleges and research centres from across Canada and around the world are invited to take part in the conversation with their own project ideas to help aerospace innovation take off.
Website : http://www.criaq.aero/rdvforum2018/en/