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How using drones provides an edge for savvy businesses

Posted by Shivali Anand

February 1, 2022    |     3-minute read (574 words)

More companies are looking at drones' last-mile delivery capability as a means of maintaining the online business momentum they achieved early in the pandemic. Experts predict that as large companies continue to perform trial drone projects across the U.S., the cost of the technology will drop and customer acceptance of such deliveries will rise, ushering in a new age of drone adoption among smaller enterprises.

How big companies are putting drones to the test

Grocery chain Kroger has joined Walmart; UPS; Wing, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet; and Amazon as one of the latest names to enter the drone delivery game, with Kroger’s trial program sending items to consumers in Centerville, Ohio.

Unlike its competitors, Kroger's drones deliver based on a user's smartphone location rather than a street address, potentially bringing in new customers, like people in a park who forgot their sunscreen or families in need of picnic supplies.

Drones are also being deployed in the battle against COVID-19. The Atlanta Hawks contracted Lucid Drone Technologies to sanitize the State Farm Arena's 17,500 seats between games, while EagleHawk drones are being used to disinfect some interior structures, including government offices and jails.

Meanwhile, construction businesses use drones for mapping and surveying, while utility companies use drones to conduct inspections and speed up projects while saving money and time.

Drones on Main Street

Drones are being used not only by giant businesses but also by small ones. According to Mockingbird Cafe, a Virginia bakery, drone delivery has accounted for around 25% of its sales during the pandemic, thanks to cooperation with Alphabet's drone-delivery subsidiary Wing.

Vadym Guliuk, a Washington, D.C.-based event photographer who invested in a $2,500 quadcopter, said nearly half of his clients now request drone footage, although only 15% of his competitors provide drone service.

Landon Smith of Midwest UAV initially utilized video drones to map soybean and corn fields on his Indiana farm. Drones that can collect crop density data and monitor picking activities in far-flung areas are also used to give mapping services to farmers.

Some small company owners with large properties, such as car yards and warehouses, are employing drones to monitor their premises. Flying the drone over the perimeter regularly helps keep an eye on security and eliminates the need for someone to stroll around the property.

Public skepticism of drones is easing

Concerns about privacy and safety are often expressed in surveys evaluating public interest in drone delivery. However, none of those polls ever surveyed people who'd received a drone delivery.

According to at least one poll, people who experience drone deliveries are far more positive about the concept. A survey of 821 inhabitants of Christiansburg, Virginia, a 22,000-person municipality served by drone delivery, revealed 87% liked the service. Wing, which is based in the town, was the first in the U.S. to provide a home drone delivery service.

Small businesses and drone delivery

The market of drone services is expected to grow from $4.4 billion in 2018 to $63.6 billion by 2025. But constraints like a maximum package weight of 5 pounds, the cost of drones themselves and the difficulty of dropping products from the air imply that existing freight and shipping operations will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, small businesses may be able to expand their delivery area while lowering costs by investing in drone delivery operations.

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