The Use Of Drones In Supply Chain Management. Research Paper Examples

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Drones, Delivery, Technology, Amazon, Services, Company, China, Media

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/20

In 2013, Amazon introduced their plan use of drones in their business operations. This move sparked a lot of controversy on the commercial use of drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in supply chain management. Amazon’s move attracted a lot of media and industry interest and over the next one year, it was clear that the online retailing giant was not the only business that realized to unharnessed potential of drone technology. In that one year period, Google acquired a number of Japanese and American automated technology and robotics companies. While the global technology giant has not yet expressed its intentions with the recent acquisitions, speculation is that the company will use the technology to combine the novel technology with their automated self-driven vehicles and achieve a fully automated supply chain covering everything from manufacturing, assembly right up to final product delivery to consumers (Phipps, 2014).
The concept of using drones in the automation of supply chain management is still in its infancy but has nonetheless roused the interest of businesses, regulators, and other key industry players. While the commercial use of drones has not been authorized, several companies are experimenting with the technology as shown in the case studies below.

Amazon Prime Air: Service for delivering E-Commerce goods, United States.

Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world and a pioneer in the use of drones in supply chain management. The company is currently testing UAVs for use in the delivery of items to consumers. According to CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s drones also known as Octocopters, would be capable of delivering packages to consumers within a 10-mile radius of the drone launch site 30 minutes after an order has been placed. The drones would have a limited capacity of about 2-3 kilograms but even then, they would still be suitable for conducting over 80% of Amazon’s deliveries. However, the US FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for commercial purposes due to security, safety, and other regulatory issues. However, testing of the service has been allowed in some states, and if approved, it will be known as Amazon Prime Air (BBC NEWS, 2013).

Domino’s Pizza- Drone Pizza Delivery, United Kingdom:

Domino’s pizzas are also experimenting with the use of drones for pizza delivery. According to an article by Adweek, Domino is currently testing drones known as DomiCopters. The DomiCopter project is a joint venture by Big Communications, T + Biscuits creative agency, and U.K. drone manufacturer AeroSight. The DomiCopter is marketed as an eco-friendly machine that can deliver readymade pizza packed in heat wave bags for quite impressive distances without the need for refueling (Kiefaber, 2013).

Zookal Book delivery in Australia.

Zookal is a textbook rental startup company in Sydney, Australia that has been noted as the first company to implement drone technology in delivering textbooks to renters. According to the company’s founder, Ahmed Haider, the use of traditional truck delivery to get books to people was quite slow and frustrating. Since the drone service began, the company has apparently reduced book delivery times from up to three days into a few minutes affair, and also slicing down transportation costs to a tenth of the original costs (McKenzie, 2013).

Incake Bakery Cake delivery service in China.

A Chinese bakery known as Incake bakery purchased a fleet of six-rotor helicopter drones and three Chinese mini drones and modified them for cake delivery to consumers in the outskirts of Shanghai. The drones were remote controlled, weighed 22lb, 3.5 feet in width, and had twin cameras mounted on them for customer identification. During one of the flights, a drone swerved past skyscrapers that face the Shanghai Bund before it successfully crossed across the Huangpu River to deliver its shipment successfully. This incident raised some safety concerns among tourists and citizens who saw the drone fly (Moore, 2013).
After these speculations, the local aviation authorities grounded the drone delivery service since it was unauthorized. According to the firm's marketing manager. Men Ruifeng, drone delivery is bound to make the cake delivery itself a special moment. Incake’s fleet remains suspended until the service is approved by the civil aviation authority and the police (Moore, 2013).

SF Express parcel delivery services using drones, China:

In 2013, several aerial drones were caught on camera delivering packages in the Chinese city of Dongguan. The drones were captured on camera by a Weibo user who posted the photos on the social media platform. The fleet consisted of eight-rotor helicopters which bore the SF Express logo. After the local media had picked up on the story, the company admitted to experimenting with drone delivery. However, the delivery company insisted that the project was only in its testing phase and widespread deployment had not yet been implemented. According to estimates, these drones can fly up to a height if 328 feet, carry an approximate load of 6.5 pounds, and deliver parcels within a two meter distance of the customer (Statt, 2013).

OppiKoppi Music Festival Beer Delivery using Drones, South Africa.

South African technology company Darkwing Aerials was contracted by OppiKoppi Music festival organizers in 2013 to deliver free beer using GPS navigation to the festival’s attendees. In an interview by, Darkwing Aerials Co-founder Dean Engela explained how the service would work. The OppiKoppi Music Festival organizers were launching a mobile phone app which festival attendee would activate and order a free beer during the festival. The free beer would then be delivered by a drone and dropped off by parachute. In order to identify the person who ordered, the drone would communicate with the application via GPS technology and get the actual coordinates to where the customer was located. The drones were completely automated since they used automated GPS navigation and only a team of two people was required to load the beer cans on the drone. The drone would land, take-off and deliver the beer by itself using GPS coordinates, drop its beer payload and return to the launch site (Gensler, 2013).

Matternet Drone Delivery services, US.

Matternet is a small startup company based in the Silicon Valley that had been developing small UAVs for several years long before Amazon made their Amazon Prime service announcement. According to a TED Talk by Matternet’s co-founder and CEO, Andreas Raptopoulos in early 2013, the vibrant technology enthusiast spoke of Matternet’s Vision on the use of small drones for delivery services (Taylor, 2013).
However, Matternet has a game changing plan that focuses on the use of drone technology in developing countries to deliver relief supplies such as food and medicine in areas hit by disaster or areas that are inaccessible by vehicles. The plan is unique since most consumer technologies serve the higher end market first before extending to achieve widespread utility. Examples of such technologies include cell phones and computers. Matternet’s vision is to introduce drone technology to the people that most need it and then establish its network from that point. Matternet has conducted testing for its drone delivery program in Haiti and New Guinea (Taylor, 2013).

Other cases:

Other drone technology application concepts that were never practically implemented include the TacoCopter drone delivery system for delivering Tacos by Christian Sanz that was held down by FAA regulations (Biggs, 2013).


BBC NEWS,. (2013). Amazon testing drones for deliveries. BBC News. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from
Biggs, J. (2013). Watch The Real-Life TacoCopter Drop Some Delicious Mexican Food From 20 Feet. TechCrunch. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from
Gensler, A. (2013). Are Beer Drones the Future of Music Festivals? A Q&A with Darkwing Aerial's Dean Engela. Billboard. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from
Kiefaber, D. (2013). Domino's Tests Delivery of Pizza by Remote-Controlled Drone. AdWeek. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from
McKenzie, H. (2013). Zookal starts "world first" delivery-by-drone service in Sydney. PandoDaily. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from
Moore, M. (2013). Pie in the sky: Chinese authorities shoot down world's first cake drones. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from'
Phipps, S. (2014). Amazon unmanned drones, biggest development for years?. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from
Statt, N. (2013). Drones in China deliver packages, even a birthday cake - CNET. CNET. Retrieved 13 March 2015, from
Taylor, C. (2013). How Matternet Wants To Bring Drone Delivery To The People Who Need It Most. TechCrunch. Retrieved 14 March 2015, from

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