Every idea that changed the world seemed ridiculous at the outset. The Wright Brothers were met with a lot of skepticism when they first revealed a prototype that would make people fly through the sky. Human beings flying in the sky? That’s crazy! We were not meant to fly!
How about unmanned aerial vehicles delivering products to our doorstep instead of a mailman? I imagine that if the Wright Brothers were building their prototype today, they would be facing the same questions that are being asked about the utility and safety of drones. But look where the aircraft industry stands now. We cannot imagine our modern lives without the convenience of flying to any corner of the world.
Drones have far-reaching potential, ranging from delivering medicines and supplies to natural disaster stricken areas, providing internet in remote places, to the more everyday use cases like delivering pizza. The other industry that will be most impacted by commercial drone usage is that of commerce. In the age of pervasive commerce, drones are going to allow for instant gratification and enhanced shopping experiences. Here are a couple of scenarios that will be enabled by the commercial usage of drones.
If you are a petite or tall size, you can rarely find clothes that fit you perfectly off the rack. You have to buy them online. Buying clothes or shoes online comes with the inherent frustration of not knowing how the items will actually look on you. What if your clothes were delivered by a drone and you could return them via a drone as well? Even with free returns and free shipping, it takes a cycle of several days to return clothes and get the ones you like. Drones would easily be able to solve that problem, bring that process down to a few hours, making online apparel shopping more efficient and fun.
Here’s another scenario. In our busy lives, we are always looking for ways to simplify our day-to-day existence. This includes the use of dishwashers, washing machines, etc., things that we now take for granted. A recurring pain point here is that of daily groceries and essentials like paper towels, toilet paper, that we run out of on a regular basis. What if you suddenly realize you are out of something, but don’t have time to go to the store? In the future, having the package waiting at your door within half an hour and saving you a rushed trip to the supermarket, would be just a click or tap away.
Such and many other scenarios would be enabled by the commercial use of drones. Just last week, Amazon has requested the FAA permission to test their drones on a private area near Seattle. Amazon has always been audacious with their vision and it has worked out for them. Whoever thought that a company selling books online would be the behemoth that it is today? A couple of months ago, Google officially announced Project Wing, something that has been in the works for the past two years. They’ve been testing their self-flying vehicles in Australia. Another company investing a lot in drone research and development is DHL. They used drones to deliver medical supplies to a German island in the North Sea. They are doing a lot of testing for making drones more reliable in adverse weather conditions.
Of course, there are concerns – legal ones with the FAA, the safety and security of people, reliability during strong winds and rains – but that’s the magic of technology. Technology is built to overcome skepticism and doubt. Because the problem that it has set out to solve is a very real one. Acceptance and adoption takes time, but it does eventually happen. Think about it. A drone can carry up to 5 pounds, which accounts for 86% of Amazon’s products. That’s a lot of products that can be delivered by drones! It only makes sense that eventually, this solution would scale for use by all brands and retailers in the world.
As commerce becomes ubiquitous, every touch point with a product will present us with the opportunity to buy it. Products will come to us whether we are on our smartphone, wearable device, social media platform, or standing in a front of an interactive storefront. It’s only natural that consumers will expect instant gratification. It’s an integral part of the revolutionized shopping experience.
We’ve all watched The Jetsons growing up. Their life was set in the year 2062, which is only about 50 years away. That vision is slowly becoming a reality as technology is enabling magic.