Industries , Logistics & Shipping

Drones Take Flight in Last-Mile Delivery Efficiency

Ankit Kumar, CEO, Skye Air On Integrating Advanced Technology for Drone Delivery
Drones Take Flight in Last-Mile Delivery Efficiency
Skye Air Mobility, Drone

The recent surge in customers ordering instant parcels to their doorsteps has driven leading integrated logistics and quick ecommerce companies to use drones for faster same-day deliveries. Advancements in drone technology are shifting this trend, particularly for last-mile delivery. This disruptive innovation not only enhances delivery speed and efficiency but also contributes to sustainability efforts by reducing carbon emissions.

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Skye Air - a SaaS-based autonomous logistics solution provider - is building a secure and robust technology infrastructure for maximizing the potential of drone applications in the logistics sector.

The global drone delivery market is projected to reach $39.2 billion by 2029, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 44.7% from 2022 to 2029. In India, the demand for faster delivery solutions, and government initiatives such as the "Drone Shakti" program and the production-linked incentive scheme have created a favorable environment for the adoption and development of drone technology. The drone logistics market in India is expected to grow significantly with the help of these policies and the increased airspace allocated for drone operations.

"Our drones are being used for various functions including last-mile delivery, inventory management and operations management, significantly improving delivery times and efficiency," said Ankit Kumar, founder and CEO, Skye Air.

Skye Air started testing drone delivery service in June 2023 with a single pod in Gurugram, India, delivering packages over an average distance of 30 km. Since then, the company has scaled its tech infrastructure and operations, increasing the number of pods and reducing the average delivery distance to 2.5 km. Skye Air employs a hybrid delivery model, integrating drones with traditional road-based logistics. This model ensures that the strengths of both delivery methods complement each other, with drones handling up to 125,000 of the 250,000 daily shipments in Gurugram, while the remainder is delivered by road.

"Drones will not fully replace traditional delivery systems, but will be an essential addition to them," Kumar said.

Real-Time Coordination and Tracking

Drone technology has advanced considerably and manufacturers are now able to produce a broader range of models in different weights, sizes and shapes capable of carrying various sensor payloads and making them useful across a wide application base.

The viability of drone delivery depends on a robust technological backbone. Skye Air, a provider of autonomous logistics solutions through SaaS, relies on an extensive AWS cloud technology infrastructure and multiple platforms to maintain smooth operations. It uses sophisticated software for managing flights, optimizing routes, and tracking packages, with seamless integration into established logistics platforms such as Shiprocket. "Our APIs link with third-party entities. As orders enter our system, they move through our hub, get picked up, and are loaded onto drones. This entire workflow aligns with the Shiprocket system, offering real-time updates," Kumar said.

The company uses ISO 9001-certified systems, real-time monitoring and advanced sensor technology to manage obstacles and ensure data security, flight safety and precise landings.

AI-driven systems are installed for automated check-in/check-out processes, reducing human error and increasing efficiency. Platforms such as Skye Ops, Skye Zone and Skye FMS are used for delivery management, client interface and internal automation, respectively. Skye UTM for unmanned traffic management, a cloud-based aerial traffic management system that integrates unmanned air traffic with manned aviation airspace. The Skye UTM captures more than 255 parameters of UAV movements and stores them. The platform offers a 3D view of the drone airspace and displays real-time UAV movements, and its operations and regulations mapping servers provide latest airspace status and verified paths.

"This UTM system facilitates seamless coordination with multiple air traffic controls in both rural and urban settings, offering real-time tracking and ultra-fast communication," Kumar said.

Scaling Up and Daily Operations

Skye Air is rapidly scaling up its operations and has now installed 80 pods across 40 locations in mega city Gurugram, servicing 3,000 packages daily, with drones handling 700 to 800 of these deliveries. "We have a threshold of 100 deliveries or 100 packages in a day, if the pod crosses that, we deploy another one. But, we haven't reached that level yet. About 15 to 20 locations are active daily. Once we reach that scale, we will continue deploying more pods on the ground to handle the increased volume," Kumar said.

The scalability of drone delivery is enhanced by the ability to batch deliveries, significantly reducing delivery times. "Drones can deliver in 3 minutes what a rider would do in 10. This speed, combined with the ability to carry multiple packages in one trip, makes drones a powerful tool for quick commerce," Kumar said.

Environmental Impact and Future Prospects

One significant advantage of drone delivery is its positive environmental impact. Skye Air's internal study shows that each drone-delivered package reduces carbon emissions by approximately 520 g compared to conventional delivery methods. Delivering 5,000 packages daily could reduce carbon emissions by 80 tons monthly. Skye Air also collaborates with non-profits and research institutions to further study and validate their environmental impact and technology adoption.

About the Author

Sandhya Michu

Sandhya Michu

Senior Assistant Editor - Editorial, ISMG

Michu is an experienced professional with over 10 years of expertise in the ICT industry. She has worked with leading media groups such as Cybermedia, 9.9 media and The Indian Express. Michu's focus areas include enterprise technology and government tech initiatives.

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