FedEx is researching the delivery firm’s capabilities of using drones within its service but, even if it adopts the increasingly popular form of technology, it is unlikely to become a widespread element in the international courier industry.
Speaking exclusively to IBTimes UK, David Binks, the President of EMEA at FedEx Express, confirmed that the company has “had some conversations” with drone manufacturers – as it does with other technological companies, such as the manufacturers of driverless cars – but that he can only envisage a time when the robots will take a “niche” place in the delivery sector.
“That’s a topic that comes up frequently. I think drones are an interesting tech in terms of what learning we can get out of them and what they facilitate in terms of future technology. We keep an eye on that, we work with the organisations who are developing those types of technology as we do with the automotive industry, who are working on driverless vehicles,” he added.
“I can see a time when perhaps they have a niche use. I don’t know whether that would become a widespread parcel delivery network. We’d have an awful lot of drones in the sky.
“It might be for a very specific delivery opportunity in a remote area where it’s very difficult to get to. I think that type of use might be interesting in the future.”
Other players in the express delivery sector have confirmed their forays into drone technology.
In September, DHL Express launched its “parcelcopter”, a helicopter-style drone which will deliver “medications and other urgently needed goods” to the remote North Sea island of Juist. DHL will operate the parcelcopter on a regular basis, initially on a research basis.
In August, Google launched a new drone delivery system called ‘Project Wing‘, which has been two years in development.
Amazon, the online retail giant which currently relies on courier companies to deliver its packages, last year confirmed it plans to introduce deliveries of small parcels using drones in the next few years. Its delivery service will be known as ‘Prime Air’.
Last January, drone deliveries were given a more pragmatic spin, when Lakemaid Beers delivered a case of beer to ice-fishermen on a lake in Wisconsin.
However, Binks confirmed that he is of the view that public perception towards drones is so negative, it would be difficult to roll the technology out on a widespread, publically-visible basis.
“We wouldn’t talk about specific investments but let me put it this way, we’re tracking what’s happening in that sector, as we are with other tech developments as well. I don’t think we’ll be putting our eggs in any single basket at this stage, but rather staying close to what all kinds of tech innovation are,” he said.
Another issue will be regulation. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bans the flight of unmanned drones, delivering packages on a commercial basis, in the US.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com