Many businesses spend thousands of pounds trying to make, import and sell their products without considering how they will get these items delivered to their clients and the overall customer experience. Every business tries to control the customers experience via ads, websites and services – However, do you know what happens to the goods once they leave the warehouse? Do you know how the items are protected?

Many companies don’t understand the basic facts of packaging, tracking, paperwork and profitability.

So be Careful! Choosing the wrong shipper can mean your customer may suffer a poor experience, resulting in the cancellation of an order! This can reduce repeat business and generate negative reviews and comments on social media platforms.

Packaging and Marketing 

With the increase in online purchases companies have to ensure that their items arrive in one piece, on time and with additional aftercare to ensure repeat business. Companies are going above and beyond to exceed expectations by including a voucher, thank you note, branding on the delivery box or delivering the item before it is expected.

Packaging is another effective way to increase your brand awareness and make sure that the items don’t get damaged in transit. How often have you received a (personal?) delivery of a small item in a huge box with an excessive amount of packaging with nothing to illustrate where it’s from?

Why not think about the following items to ensure repeat business and reduce the amount of items being damaged in transit:

  • Name and website printed on box or on a leaflet inside
  • Discount offer for future purchases
  • Suggest alternative purchases
  • Discounts for sharing experience on social media
  • Use packaging as an extension of the quality of your brand

Packaging Options

There are hundreds of options to ship items depending on the nature of your consignments from bulk cargo on pallets, light weight boxes, wooden crates and padded envelopes. There are new innovative ideas being introduced to the market place which can reduce your courier costs, especially when sending large volumes out daily, so be sure to always review your packaging! Do not make the mistake of using inappropriate packaging for the item being shipped resulting in the package being damaged and the inability to claim on the insurance.

 Courier Service

Remember! Not all couriers are the same! It’s not as easy as using one man and their van as your default driver assuming that your parcels will be delivered on time, every time. Care must be taken to choose the correct courier by ensuring that the drivers are vetted and trained to ensure that your items are in safe hands. Most couriers will provide goods in transit insurance cover as standard which will cover articles that are being shipped.

What other services do you expect from your courier?

Here are a few services that Apollo can provide:

      • 24 hours a day 365 days a year
      • Same day dedicated vehicles from small vans to artics
      • Nationwide couriers with other offices based throughout the country
      • Experienced staff and well trained drivers providing an efficient service
      • Overnight services from parcels to pallets
      • International services – Worldwide via economy or express service
      • Dedicated vehicle cover of £10,000.00 per vehicle as standard!

Your goods are important to you, so why not ensure that you get the best services with a courier company that will look after your interest’s at the most cost effective way. As a family run business in the market place for 21 years, we know how hard it is to be competitive and provide the best service to your client’s. Apollo will always ensure that we treat your customer’s the same as you like to be treated yourself. What lengths will you go to ensure you have the best courier available?

Written by: Emma Dyer

Apollo Distribution Solutions – Cardiff


The Uberfication of Logistics


The Uber model is becoming essential for businesses to implement into their supply chains. Customers crave the ability to order items for fast delivery and arrange shipments with ease; it is abundantly clear that the Uber model facilitates this desire.

Uber itself has recently launched UberRUSH as an accessible courier service in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Customers can use the app to find vehicles in their area, specify their bespoke needs, organise an efficient service, whilst tracking their consignments. Drivers can then sign up and work under Uber, maintaining their own working schedules. What’s the catch? Plenty of other companies have capitalised on the same model since and have proved very successful. However, many concerns have been raised regarding how this new structure will impact on the shipping industry, particularly considering its extremely rapid growth in the market.

The very nature of an app-based service makes for a degree of both efficiency and visibility previously unheard of. With ease of ordering, customers can locate the best vehicle in their area and provide any necessary bespoke instructions to receive a tailored service. Additionally, the apps provide full visibility; the vehicles can be tracked throughout the journey, which means that customers always know the live status of every journey. Queries have been raised, however, with regards to the safety of the transported items. Security is a huge concern. What’s to stop a driver registering, finding a load of value, and thieving the goods? It is clearly highly important that security measures are established to ward off criminal activity.

Many argue that the security anxieties of uberfication is a huge turn-off. The customer is likely to be working with different drivers each and every time – how can they be expected to trust this above a trusted broker that they have been working with for some time? This is understandably a huge leap for a lot of people. Moreover, from a business perspective, their broker would have previously worked out all the logistics for them. With uberfication, the responsibility lies in the hands of the sender. This may require extra staff, or put a strain on the workload of existing employees.

Companies are under much pressure to keep up with the uberfication of logistics. Without adaptation, freight brokers, for example, could end up losing much business. There is considerable demand for these businesses to create their own apps in order to comply with the uberfication trend. These uber-style delivery drivers are also able to shape their activity around individual requirements, brokers need to keep up with this expected personalised service.

Furthermore, with reference to a dynamic service, uber-style apps are able to immediately generate tailored prices for each job. These prices are likely to vary each time and are dependent upon a great many factors; brokers will need to ensure they also keep up with this side of the trend. The immediacy of payment transfer is also a huge plus point. Transactions are done straight away as soon as the job is completed.

There are many clear environmental benefits of the uberfication of logistics, predominantly when making use of return loads. Too frequently, vehicles of all sizes are travelling unloaded. Uber-style apps will allow people to book these vehicles for back-loads to ensure that the vehicle isn’t wasting mileage not achieving anything. Goods can also be consolidated with uberfication. One vehicle may take several customers’ consignments rather than several vehicles all travelling independently. This is also effective in decongesting urban areas. Less vehicles clogging up cities will certainly benefit air quality. Depots and ports need to be ready for this consolidation, plenty argue that they are not prepared for this loading arrangement.

With the uberfication of logistics taking hold, brokers need to be liberal in adapting their businesses before losing clients to app-based services. Plenty of companies are racing ahead to establish themselves as uber-style leaders in their regions and the rest of the logistics industry needs to keep up!

Join the discussion further with us @ApolloCardiff.

Final Mile Logistics: Droid Technology


Aside from rigorously discussed delivery technologies such as drones and driverless vehicles, many claim an oversight with regards to droid technology. These delivery robots have recently gathered much interest and perhaps offer an alternative means of final mile delivery during a period of further research and development of more far-fetched logistics.

Last mile delivery has long been an area of discussion for urban transport and logistics planners. With a particular emphasis on London, highly congested areas make for a logistics nightmare. Consignments can travel long distances but spend 80% of their transport time sat on overcrowded roads. This, of course, raises additional environmental issues. UK cities are under pressure to expand and grow. With more and more deliveries piling in, air quality is poor and roads condensed with logistics vehicles only add to the problem.

UK-based Starship believe that their company have the solution. The Starship delivery robot is designed to autonomously drive along pavements to make deliveries from businesses to consumers. Evidently, this removes the middle man from the situation. Unmanned, these machines can take goods directly to customers. It also lessens costs; with an estimated 30-40% of delivery expenses coming from the final mile section of delivery, the adoption of new logistics technologies is vital for businesses to consider.

There are plenty of advantages associated with delivery robots in urban landscapes. As aforementioned, financially they can be enormously worthwhile. Small businesses may especially benefit, rather than paying for vehicles to sit in traffic daily, they can make use of a droid, which is clearly a lot cheaper to run. With UAVs more expensive to buy and potentially less safe due to spinning blades, many businesses would rather invest in something people may be more likely to trust – additional concerns were raised after the recent Heathrow drone collision. Importantly, drone technology relies on much regulation and it seems we’re far from a conclusive outcome. Droids travel on pavements and not roads, clearly simplifying the attainment of regulatory approval.

The Starship brand of delivery robot has already covered more than 3057km in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, and the US and shows no sign of stopping. Practiced on varying terrains, from snow to rain, droids have shown their ability to function successfully against potentially problematic conditions. Using a 3G GPS signal, 9 inbuilt cameras, and numerous sensors, they are programmed to reach their destination successfully without bumping into obstacles along the way.

However, this is something to consider. If the machines are only benefiting urban environments, then the pedestrian population must be taken into account. Clearly, the number of pedestrians in a city like London is dense. In spite of sensors, citizens will still have to keep an eye out for the droids, which operate far below eye-level. In particularly busy areas, it could feasibly take hours for delivery robots to complete their deliveries after negotiating their way around thousands of feet. However, manufacturers have assured that the droids cannot cause damage along their route. They weigh less than 35 pounds and travel slowly, preventing any collision causing real harm.

Aside from concerns regarding pavement travel, the Starship inventors have certainly taken usability into account. The machines are easy to use; customers can take their goods from the central compartment and also easily return any unwanted goods. Safety is also of utmost important – the compartment is locked to keep items safe, with easy access granted at its final destination. The cameras aboard also transmit live video to operators in order to discourage thieves.

The battery life of the delivery robots could be criticised. Currently, the droids can run for just over two hours before needing a recharge. This may be of concern in highly populated areas where delivery will take some time. However, only completing urban missions, the hope is that each delivery can be completed and returned within the two hour time frame. This certainly seems achievable and clearly further future development would lead to expanded battery life if necessary.

With real potential to flourish quicker than UAV and driverless technology, how do you perceive the future of delivery droids? Join the discussion by tweeting @ApolloCardiff!

Thanks to:

Photo by Tim Butler / CC BY

Why does the Logistics Industry need the Internet of Things?

Why does the (2)The Internet of Things defines a technology whereby physical objects are connected to a wireless network. Some predictions suggest that 200 billion items will be connected by 2020. With a shift from independence to integration, data can now be passed from a network of linked objects; this has huge implications for a great number of industries. The technology permits open networks of communication, resulting in increased intelligence for companies. This intelligence, often referred to as ‘machine learning’, extracts valuable insights from an IoT network, which may improve future usability, production or functionality.

The IoT has been effective across the logistics industry, providing a certain level of visibility not gleaned from previous technologies. Far more insightful data can now be captured, facilitating supply chain optimisation. It is integral that heads of supply chain keep up with this trend in order to safeguard the future of their business. A large company, reliant on supply chain success, will begin to fall behind its competitors without the knowledge provided by the IoT.

The IoT can benefit warehousing hugely. Every element is linked and now operating as one gigantic system. Warehouse managers have an aerial view, enhancing efficiency and risk management strategy. Sensors are in place throughout a smart warehouse to monitor every movement; the information is then sent wirelessly for machine learning analysis. For example, forklift damage can be addressed before the entire machine breaks down. If a part of the forklift isn’t functioning as it should, the IoT alerts warehouse operation staff to replace it, allowing the forklift to resume its job without interrupting productivity too much.

Item location is also important in the warehouse. If hundreds, or even thousands, of items are being picked at once, a robust and intelligent system needs to be in place. With the IoT, the exact location of the item can be found, as well as other information such as where it came from and what condition it is in. Having the real-time visibility to assess the full status of an item accelerates productivity massively.

Human error is also removed. When all items are accounted for by sensors, time won’t be wasted searching for something that may have been inputted incorrectly by hand. Additionally, there will be automatic updates regarding replenishment. Item numbers can be recognised and replaced quickly and automatically, once again removing potential human intervention error.

The IoT doesn’t exclusively benefit the warehouse; the transit process can also be fully connected to the network. The vehicles can be fitted with sensors. Should the vehicle endure any faults, data is immediately transmitted in order to alert staff of the issue before a more serious one occurs. This not only safeguards the company against huge financial implications but also minimises the risk of the driver facing harm.

Tracking sensors can also be installed to monitor full journeys. The company is able to track the progress of a vehicle and this information can then be communicated to the client in real-time. This immediate intelligence will put IoT enabled companies ahead of their competitors who can’t provide this information instantaneously.

Companies storing and transporting food and other perishables benefit from the IoT hugely. It is advantageous to remotely monitor and control the conditions in which these items are stored. Temperature, for example, can be observed and maintained to stop the goods being ruined in transit. Clients expect perishables to arrive in perfect condition and the IoT leaves companies with no excuse.

The assumption that warehouses will run efficiently, goods will be successfully picked and transported, and vehicles will reach their destination at the agreed time is central to the success of the IoT in logistics. ‘Uberfication’, requesting an item be picked and sent immediately, is a great pressure looming over supply chain operators. The integration of the IoT will allow for these high expectations to be met. Clients and consumers want instant gratification and if a company lacks the appropriate IoT technology to grant this then they will get left behind.

Thanks to:

A Brand New Addition to the Apollo Cardiff Fleet

At Apollo Cardiff we are continually expanding and this morning we welcome a new addition to our van fleet! To find out if we can be a more efficient, economical courier service for your business than your current provider, enter your details in our quick quote form. We might be able to save you some time and money!



Make a New Year’s Resolution you’ll want to keep


Chinks in your supply chain are instrumental in slowing business down. Can you rely on your chosen courier to pick-up and deliver on time? Do you have constant communication with them? Are you actually getting the most competitive rates available? A bespoke and robust logistics plan could be just what your business needs and the new year offers the perfect excuse to cement one.

Our experienced staff are on call 24/7, 365 days a year to make sure your goods are transported safely, efficiently and on time. We don’t operate a call centre; you will always get straight through to someone able to help you. It is of the utmost importance to us that we work around you and your requirements. That’s why we develop tailored logistics plans to suit the size, shape and hours of your business.

We offer four principal services:

Same day delivery: We have a 100% guarantee on our same day timed service. We have a fleet of dedicated vehicles to transport your goods; this means that there will never be other consignments on board. The exclusivity of this service is competitively priced and works entirely around you.

Next day delivery: For your less urgent deliveries, try our overnight service. We use a number of the UK’s leading couriers. As a result we can apply discounts to your consignments. We’ll track your goods all the way, whether you utilise standard delivery or request specially timed services.

International: Not only do we serve the whole of the UK but we can also send your items internationally. From Ireland to Australia, we’ve got the solution. Rates vary hugely but remain competitive, once again making use of discounts from the major carriers.

Storage: We have plenty of shelving in Cardiff to help tidy your office space. The environment in which we store your goods is clean, dry, and secure; there is 24 hour security on sight as well as fully integrated CCTV.

You can use our quick quote generator online to find out if we can beat your current rates! Alternatively, call us. We’re always on hand to help and talk through any problems you may be having. Call 02920796100, email us, use our live chat facility on our website or message us on Twitter or Facebook. With so many ways to get in touch, you have literally no excuse not to revamp your supply chain this January.

7 Ways in which Vision Picking Solutions, such as Google Glass, are Assisting Warehouse Management


A densely populated warehouse can prompt a chaotic working environment. In vast storage facilities, such as those operated by Amazon, a constant item picking system is in place. Thousands of employees negotiate the shelves, performing their individual picks to be dispatched to customers. A high speed needs to be sustained without compromising accuracy; this is tough in huge picking landscapes and can be similarly problematic for small scale businesses with a proportionally smaller workforce.

Distribution and storage companies intent on improving both efficiency and accuracy in their warehouses have preached the benefits of a particular breakthrough in tech: augmented reality eyewear. Initially marketed to an assortment of sectors, an apparent home for this wearable technology has been established within warehousing and distribution.

Google Glass and Android’s Vuzix M100 are leading the takeover, predominantly in vision picking. The Vuzix M100 model is frequently ranked highly by professionals as it is tailored specifically for industry. Additionally, they feature larger batteries for longevity and can be fixed to pre-existing safety goggles if required.

How instrumental to warehouse success can smart glasses be? There are a number of reasons as to why operations managers are selecting this vision picking technology:

  1. Naturally, a wearable tech permits a hands-free workforce. This repeatedly emerges as a key sticking point. Workers no longer have the burden of a handheld mobile device and/or list. Rather, they have greater freedom which enables increased efficiency when picking goods from shelving units.
  2. With information detailing the imminently picked product visible, workers don’t need to check back and remind themselves of orders. The information about each pick is constantly fed to the employee who can use automated scanning systems to register the item at the point of selection. Moreover, certain models are able to recognise the codes applied to items and shelves. As the employee looks around the space, the glasses pick these up and graphics appear informing them what to collect as well as where to go next.
  3. This constant and reliable cycle of information between the operating system and the employee is hugely transformative in the improvement of efficiency and accuracy.
  4. Images of orders can also be conjured. This visual representation of the product can only function to further improve pick-rates and accuracy.
  5. DHL, after successful trials, have implemented vision picking in one of their warehouses in Benelux. With the adoption of both Google Glass and the Vuzix M100 Glasses, it was found that errors could be decreased by as much as 40% when vision picking was in place. Human error is dramatically reduced; this clearly produces a huge financial advantage.
  6. As well as projecting imagery for workers, vision picking hardware can often capture photographs. This can be really helpful in sending visual messages back to other staff with immediate effect. From alerting team members to a situation, to delivering images to embellish reports, this feature clearly puts warehouses at an advantage.
  7. Improved navigation supplied by smart glasses puts employees at a huge advantage. Workers aren’t blindly searching shelves for picks; rather, they can be guided comprehensively through a potentially complex warehouse layout with ease.

Evidently, an upgraded level of efficiency and accuracy in the warehouse are the prime outcomes of the implementation of smart glasses in this field. With DHL already adopting the technology, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to see further examples of businesses of all sizes enhancing their workforce with vision picking technology.

Join the discussion on Twitter! Tweet @ApolloCardiff and let us know how you see augmented reality eyewear shaping the future of warehouse logistics.

Photo by Giuseppe Constantino / CC BY

With thanks to:

  • DHL
  • MHL news
  • Postscapes
  • WSJ
  • EFT


How are Logistics Mobile Apps Transforming the Industry?

In the ancestry of the logistics mobile app, sits the mobile warehouse device. The predecessor of the smartphone app, a ruggedised mobile device, facilitates a productive workforce whereby nobody is tethered to a specific area. These ergonomic machines enable heightened accuracy and efficiency, linking wirelessly to computers and printers.


With the birth of smartphone technology came the natural sequel to this device in the guise of the supply chain app. No longer just for warehouse use, apps can be integrated into every stage of the supply chain, from drivers to consumers.

It is this multi-functionality, a communication platform not only between members of an organisation but also between a business and customer, which has attracted companies to recruit app software developers.

Notoriously, the logistics industry has been considered relatively slow when adapting to digitalisation. However, with plenty of Millennials now employed in the industry, perception is changing with regards to new technologies.

How are mobile apps transformative to the field?

  • Perhaps the biggest advantage of mobile apps in logistics is the ability to supply information in real-time, to both business employees and the customer. In this way, the status of consignments can be accurately tracked and notifications can be sent automatically at each stage of transportation.
  • Naturally, this enables individual employees to be tracked with the GPS enabled technology built into the app. Managers will always have direct contact with their drivers.
  • Accurate PODs can be generated. Signatures can be collected and sent instantaneously back to managers as proof of delivery.
  • Apps can also be used to capture valuable data. Information can be stored and analysis can allow for more responsive business decisions.
  • Traffic management is a huge benefit. GPS 3VC9WOIB07technology can allow for real-time road updates and information can be sent to the driver to specify the best route to take. This saves both time and money, possibly securing future work with a client.
  • Aesthetically, a business may appear more stable. Customers may feel assured by the sophistication of app assisted deliveries.
  • They can be used to arrange bookings quickly without speaking to a phone operator. This enhances efficiency, especially for customers arranging simple home deliveries.
  • The customer service element of any company is vital. With the addition of an app, customers can track their shipments, find out about potentially pushed or premature ETAs, or even live chat with a company representative.
  • Businesses may also use the interface to communicate the latest offers with their customers; in a sense, this creates an exclusive club whereby app users can get the best deal.

The demand for app assisted logistics is increasing, with more and more companies developing software to meet it. Do you have experience using a logistics-specific app? Join the discussion in the comments below or on Twitter using #logisticsapps!

Thanks to:

  • Rapidsoft Technologies
  • Scandit
  • Common Time
  • Snappii
  • Inbound Logistics

The Future of Logistics: Shaped by Driverless Technology?

In the first two parts of our series covering emerging technologies in logistics, we looked at both 3D printing and UAV machines. Since, Airbus has used a 3D printer to manufacture the majority of an aircraft. Amazon are also furthering their exploration into Drone technology to minimise delivery times. A fast moving landscape incorporates a great many new technologies and in this blog we’re spotlighting driverless vehicles.

driverless technology, driverless vehicle, future of logistics, driverless cars, driverless transport

The above image is a 1950s advertisement for America’s Electric Light and Power companies. Perhaps this is not worlds away from the way in which driverless technology could be integrated into our road networks (minus the board game, probably). The notion that drivers will be able to authorise their vehicles to navigate the roads for them, leaves excess time in transit to complete other tasks. Thus, productivity is heightened, serving a more efficient supply chain. However, with the driver predictably still needed in the vehicle to combat any errors, many argue that the benefits don’t outweigh the development costs of this technology.

Of course, driverless technology is already present and often integral to manufacture. Transport vehicles in factories do not need drivers. Instead, machines are automated to handle materials accordingly; this has been so for decades. This reality is far from the 1950s commercial. Rather, these machines run relatively slowly and in enclosed areas as reaction time can be slow. Overall this leaves us with a relatively cumbersome system. However, future enhancements are set to revolutionise existing machinery. Taking this technology from the factory, breaching its current limits and making it fit for public roads has been described as the next “evolutionary step” towards a brighter future in distribution.

We’ve taken the advantages and pitfalls of the use of driverless vehicles in logistics to assess to what extent a future of self-driving trucks is likely. This is to assume that the technology will be refined to allow vans, transits, and articulated lorries to self-drive, with full public road access to transport goods.

The benefits

  • Similar to UAV technology, human error is scrapped. The prime responsibility now resides with the machinery and this has the potential to minimise road accidents, often a result of driver faults. Road accidents caused by tiredness or lack of attention would no longer be an issue, generating a safer road network.
  • Once the driving has been adopted by an automated system, drivers can serve other company duties whilst in the vehicle, such as administrative tasks. This, of course, enhances productivity, saving time, money and resources.
  • Current regulations preventing employees from driving around the clock wouldn’t necessarily exist in a realm of self-driving vehicles according to many, therefore supply chain efficiency is heightened significantly.
  • In this hypothetical landscape in which vehicles can keep going, transit times will be shorter which, in turn, increases freight turnover. This increase in turnover can be used to improve other areas of a logistics plan, from cutting loading times to expanding marketing budgets.
  • Ultra-sensitive reactors would allow vehicles to drive closer together, reducing traffic congestion.
  • Driverless vehicles generally have a lower environmental impact.

The assumption has been made that the driver will still need to be present, whether this is to take over should error occur, or serve as a human contact for the company at the pick-up/delivery locations. This point leads us to the downsides of self-driving vehicles in this industry:

The negatives

  • In order to be able to take control, should an error occur, the driver on board will need to be a professional. Therefore, full training will still need to be provided in a field which is experiencing a distinctly fewer number of young applicants than ever before.
  • In our list of positives, we mentioned round-the-clock driving. However, many argue that this wouldn’t be the case and that the driver would need to remain awake and alert to combat any technical faults. As a result, rest times would realistically remain about the same.
  • Conversely, if we were to reach a situation where drivers were not needed, or even if they were to complete other tasks whilst in the vehicle, we have an employment issue. Whether this is a loss of jobs for drivers, or a loss of jobs at the company office(s) because tasks are completed mid-transit.
  • At this point we’ve not considered the downside of an automated system inherently. Software can be hacked. If this technology is hacked, people can off-road vehicles, crash them, as well as track home/confidential addresses. Clearly, there is huge chaotic potential here.

The role of the driver seems ironically vital when discussing self-driving vehicles. That is, does said employee need to be present and to what extent? We are clearly far from a road system populated by driverless vehicles, but the question still stands as to how important they will become for the future of logistics?

Perhaps the most likely projection is the existence of manned driverless vehicles. Automated trucks have a smaller environmental impact, can react quicker to dynamic road changes, create a less tiring journey for supervising drivers and reduce traffic congestion. In this sense, they benefit the logistics industry significantly. However, with alert, trained drivers still a necessity, will logistic companies invest in driverless technology for their fleet? If drivers were able to carry out other tasks whilst aboard a vehicle that was more reactive to changes, thus averting collisions, this could conceivably assist the supply chain in becoming safer and more efficient.

How do you see driverless technology shaping the future of logistics? Will it bear much influence at all? Tweet Apollo Cardiff and let us know, @ApolloCardiff. Make sure to use #driverlesstech in your comments!

Thanks to


How is Advanced UAV Technology set to Shape the Future of Logistics? Apollo Cardiff Investigates

Add subtitle text (5) Drone technology: an attractive prospect for futurists. However, concerns voiced by those in opposition leave distribution companies in a quandary. With a proportion developing potentially practical drone solutions in the supply chain, will our skies soon be scattered with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)?  UAV technology is already being utilised (for example, in the military for surveillance), with further prototypes in development. Many believe that the notion of mass drone assisted delivery and collection is vital for the future of logistics. Apollo Cardiff asks whether the integration of advanced UAV technology in the field will become the norm.

The value of UAVs to deliver to remote locations is evident. Landscapes dominated by poor infrastructure and tough terrain have already reaped the rewards of drone technology. Hypothetically, developing communities in remote areas could connect with other villages through UAV networks which could eventually facilitate their inclusion in the wider economy. Suddenly, they are connected. Not only can vital goods be distributed, but information too. As a result, these communities are no longer isolated. They don’t stand alone. Rather, this potential future of logistics sees their communicative range broadened, overcoming many barriers that a lack of suitable infrastructure generates. It certainly wouldn’t be the formula for a complete revolution; however, a stronger economic positioning could be established, moving these communities towards a better supplied future in which they also no longer face communicative isolation.

Theoretically, this sounds like the ideal scenario. Nevertheless, a great number of people argue that it is just that. An idealised notion, which bypasses a long list of issues. As far as UAVs in use on a mass scale in logistics is concerned, these problems fit into two clear categories: Technology based risk and social anxiety.

Let’s first take the potential risks associated with the fundamental UAV technology. There are a number of associated risks with the use of these machines, especially when considering mass scale use in distribution. Many would argue that a choked urban environment could be assisted by drone solutions. The final leg of a delivery could be adopted by a UAV, thus alleviating both inner-city congestion as well as bearing environmental benefits. However, if our airspace is full of thousands of drone devices, how can we be sure of a 100% prevention rate regarding collisions? Airspace, particularly over cities, is already overcrowded. Potential faults in motion sensor technology could lead to drones crashing into each other, buildings, wildlife, and even citizens if such collisions render the drone hurtling towards the ground. Furthermore, colliding with an aircraft could result in hundreds of risked lives. In 2013, a pilot reported the sighting of a drone just 200 feet from his aircraft when making his final approach into JFK International Airport. This triggered further investigation as it could have brought the craft down. Of course, we can only speculate. Even at this point the failure of a UAV is relatively unlikely, but it still remains a real concern in the eyes of many. Human error is removed but the risks of relying on technology remain.

Social anxieties are evident. The word “drone” does seem to connote some sort of dystopia in which humankind is under constant surveillance. Perhaps this originates from the use of UAVs in the military as spy equipment. There are a great number who scrutinise the use of the camera and GPS technology on board. Supporters of advanced UAVs mark such opinion as a social paranoia which is preventing advancements in a potentially widely beneficial and revolutionary technology.

The logistics industry could be completely reshaped, with faster delivery times, even to the most remote locations that wouldn’t otherwise have the infrastructure to accept said goods. However, the anxiety regarding both their use to survey and potentially harm humankind must be treated seriously.

Of course, UAVs used outside of strict regulation have the potential to inflict much harm; however, correctly used by logistics providers, they have the prospect to reshape delivery networks for the better. Currently, regulations vary widely from country to country, firm legislation is predicted to be realised in the next few years, making adoption of the technology both easier for distribution companies and less of a public concern.

Other social apprehension comes from the cost of drone solutions. An estimate in 2013 cited the cost for Amazon, and other companies, to be around $50,000 per machine. However, MIT Technology Review made note of a drone delivery made to Haitian refugee camps. Here, life enabling products were distributed at a rate that was around five times cheaper than the normal truck delivery method. For logistics providers, the value of the goods on board clearly needs to be considered when calculating whether delivery by UAV is of benefit. Clearly, as aforementioned, in the instances of delivery to remote locations, or when providing precious life-saving goods, the advantages remain clear, perhaps regardless of extra costs.

Amazon’s UAV plans have by no means been a secret. Although grounded for the time being, much research into the future of logistics has led to the potentiality of a system by which consumers can make an online order which is delivered within 30 minutes. Amazon claim that this isn’t a future too far away, with CEO Jeff Bezos hinting at a 4-5 year waiting time in order to benefit their most loyal Prime customers. Fellow giant, Google, have recently revealed their UAV plans under the name of Project Wing. After two years of development, this project enables consumers to receive their goods in a matter of minutes. However, much like Amazon, it is years away from completion.

Despite much speculation, advanced UAV technology is racing towards realisation in the logistics field. With Amazon and Google as forerunners in their development, it seems feasible to envisage a future in which the supply chain is heavily influenced by drone solutions. Associated risks are of course prevalent, with much concentration needed on the regulative legislation in order to ensure such technology is born into a secure environment. It has been argued that the hesitation regarding these regulations exists due to mounting social anxiety. It could perhaps be said that social change is progressing at a slower rate than that of one of the technologies set to shape the future of logistics. How do you see the future of drones in distribution? Are UAVs set to disturb the supply chain as we know it? Let us know at Apollo Cardiff. Comment below or tweet us @ApolloCardiff to join the debate!

With thanks to: