The subject of autonomous drones has been heavily debated over the past ten years, these pieces of equipment often being associated with military activity and their typically combative role. However, the advances made in the technological field and the increasing use of drones for civilian purposes are gradually managing to eliminate this sort of preconceived ideas. However, there is still significant reluctance as to whether autonomous drones will ever be used as air cargo shipping tools. Nowadays, drones designed to achieve military precision standards can be acquired for less than 1000 pounds, being encountered more and more frequently in a variety of domains by both professionals and mere enthusiasts.
The air cargo shipping industry has also integrated autonomous drones and quite successfully so over recent years. Some companies, for instance, have turned to such pieces of equipment in an attempt to improve the quality of medical services by ensuring connections between medical clinics and a faster delivery of medical supplies. Drones have also been used in delivery to reduce the delivery times within city areas, as well as provide a solution to problematic ground shipping in large city areas. Of course, as expected, the range of use reaches far beyond the medical and delivery field and covers a variety of locations around the world.
So far, drones have been used for rather small payloads only. However, the advances in UAV technology are pointing to improved flight times, ranges and payloads too. The market already hosts a number of in-service military drones designed to withstand loads of up to one tonne, so it is only a matter of time until similar pieces of equipment will be designed for civilian use as well.
As an air cargo shipping solution, autonomous drones provide access to areas with damaged or non-existent road or air infrastructures, while also being designed to replace human force in conflict and therefore potentially dangerous areas across the globe. And the list of advantages can go on, with an environmentally-friendly mode of operation and low costs included among them.
However, numerous question marks arise in terms of such drones being used in the logistics area. Some of the debate in this sense regards the ability of autonomous drones to operate without interfering with any existing regulations, activity or traffic. Also, their operating in large numbers is bound to require the development of regional or national control systems, whether automated or manned. Suspicion with regard to potentially illegal activity involving drones being carried out is also to be noted in a context where the size and operating altitudes of these pieces of equipment impair the enforcement of airspaces and border lines, as well the prevention of hijacks.
Finally, another aspect to be considered when approaching the topic of autonomous drones being used for air cargo shipping purposes is the financial one. To this end, it should be noted that the low costs involved with the acquisition of such equipment are balanced by correspondingly large investments in the infrastructure required for its commercial use.
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