The last mile

Author: Carlos Delgado (UNVEX’s organization)

One of the applications where the impact of drone technology is most disruptive is in transport. New needs involve the generation of new types of transport, and make it necessary to build a new ecosystem, from infrastructure to new planning models.

Not only a new transport model, which also entails new approaches of interrelationships, but also the flexibility that the drone brings to the different models of transition to the autonomous vehicle.

The applications that a drone can develop as a support element or auxiliary tool to the different tasks that have a relation with transport are infinite.

A practical case of these applications could be the support in the transport of packages from a truck that makes a delivery route. From the beginning, the drone could move towards alternative routes to deliver packages in remote points of the main route and once the drone made the delivery, it would repeat the operation giving coverage in addition to the zones established to peripheral extra zones.

UPS, a leading company in packages transport, illustrated its new vision for autonomous transport with the previous example and pointed out something very important in order to make the change a reality in the ecosystem, and that is to involve the main actors and stakeholders: industry, companies, users and legislators.

The example of the delivery truck clearly shows the use of scalable technology, a requirement that is essential if we really want to build an ecosystem based on all the potential offered by remotely manned systems as a model of transition to the autonomous vehicle.

This same model can be extrapolated to other applications, for example, captive and non-captive drones for use in firefighting, perimeter surveillance or Defence and Security applications from any type of mother vehicle.

The last mile, proximity transport, is the most immediate way to influence the model of change towards an environment where the drone is the protagonist in transport, thus changing the conventional model to a more efficient and practical one.
However, let us not focus the drone, in its role as protagonist, only on an urban model.

The last mile, in Spain, has a very special connotation in the rural environment. Spain has more than 5,000 municipalities with less than 1,000 inhabitants, according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute. The possibility offered by the use of drones in the distribution of medicines in these population focuses may mark a turning point in the recovery and boom of these municipalities.

The possibility of equipping medical centers and pharmacies in remote towns with medicines or health material could involve a real change in the ecosystem and even a new business model of infrastructures to equip rural areas with hangars or support platforms from where drones can operate for the distribution of medicines. Not only in ordinary support for a reduced population, but also in their use for environmental catastrophes and emergencies.

In this sense, it was already commented in the first entry of this blog, the plan to use on the part of Telefonica, its towers of telecommunications and that have distributed by all the national territory, like structural element to raise hangars for its Project Drones Antifire.

Novaltia cooperative deals with the problem of the supply of medicines in remote areas of Aragon and Pharmadron has designed drones capable of lifting 10 kg with an autonomy of 30 minutes.

All these major initiatives face a major obstacle, still difficult to overcome: the slow pace with which the regulations are progressing.

The regulation, in this case, far from being disruptive, tends to conform to the existing canons, even so, the integration of unmanned or remotely manned aircraft in a common airspace will be a reality, which we hope will be sooner rather than later, but what is clear is that it will be.