Drone deliveries are no longer some fantastical, far-off idea – they are already happening in many countries across the world. You may not be seeing a sky full of drone traffic, but it’s just a matter of time. And it will improve – even save – lives, reduce traffic and pollution, save money and speed up delivery services.  

In Tanzania drones are already making essential deliveries of medical supplies every day just as they are in Switzerland and other countries. But it’s not just remote or inaccessible areas that are seeing the benefits of using drone technology.

Further test flights in the United States for drone deliveries from orders by app are happening right now, while Amazon have been seriously testing its viability and Wing, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been testing drone deliveries in Australia. Meanwhile, Japan is considering relaxing restrictions on drones to allow for more efficient delivery of products.

One sector that could be transformed by drone deliveries is that of the food industry.

Ele.me, the Alibaba-owned meal delivery service, has already received approval from the Chinese government to use drones for food delivery along 17 predetermined routes in the Shanghai suburbs. It has cut delivery time down to 20 minutes, which given how congested the traffic in Shanghai can be, represents a significant time saving.

Roads have bends, turnings, traffic lights, fellow drivers and many other things that are going to slow your journey down, but drones – even restricted to approved air lanes – have the potential to deliver something from one point in a city to another a lot faster. Imagine a service like Careem NOW that’s able to deliver totally unencumbered by rush-hour traffic and have vastly reduced delivery times that benefit the customer.

Deliveries being made by drones will also have the positive side effect of meaning fewer cars and trucks on the roads, which will reduce overall traffic congestion and result in less pollution.

Drones are also being used for fast-food deliveries in Iceland and here in Dubai there have been tests by Costa to deliver drinks. Granted, the idea that food would be delivered from the restaurant right to your door is perhaps a little fanciful, at least at this stage. But what is more likely to happen first is drones are used to deliver to and from established points in the city and from those stations the items will be collected or delivered for the final leg by traditional means such as motorbikes and cars – just as Careem NOW is currently using.

The larger point is, we’re on the cusp of a huge change in the way we transport items.

According to a McKinsey report, the value of drone activity rose from $40 million in 2012 to about $1 billion in 2017 in the United States alone. As a global industry, Goldman Sachs expects drones to be worth $100 billion by 2020 as companies and smart-governments across the world increasingly embrace the advantages they can offer.

And for the e-commerce giant Amazon, a report from Deutsche Bank expects delivery automation to be their greatest cost-reduction opportunity, potentially lowering the cost of last-mile shipping by as much as 80 percent.

Of course, there are still things to be sorted out before drones become ubiquitous. Flying lanes for drones would have to be established as would regulation, but over 50 countries already belong to Joint Authorities for Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS) as forward-thinking governments establish best practice for drone operations.

And is Careem planning on using drones for Careem NOW deliveries? Well, we’re testing a few things. And so far, the testing is going well.

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