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ASCM Insights

Piloting Speedier Deliveries with Drones

title

Challenge: Achieve more efficient and environmentally sustainable deliveries
Solution: Drone Delivery Canada’s proprietary drone and DroneSpot solution
Company: DSV — Global Transport and Logistics, Air & Sea Division
Headquarters: Hedehusene, Denmark
Canadian Headquarters: Milton, Ontario
Operation: Global transport and logistics

The challenge

DSV is a global transport and logistics company specializing in the storage and delivery of consumer packaged goods, health care and beauty products, high-tech electronics, apparel, and automotive goods. As a multinational company with facilities in more than 80 countries, DSV wanted to streamline the shipping of freight overseas, as well as the delivery of goods between the company’s own facilities in a single country.

“At DSV, we are continually looking for ways to optimize time and cost savings in the interest of pushing ourselves, our business and our industry to the next level,” says Martin Roos, managing director of DSV Air & Sea Inc. in Milton, Ontario. “These efficiencies make the supply chain run smoother and more seamlessly and allow us to focus on developing more and new business.”

As a transportation and logistics leader, DSV also wanted to stay on top of delivery trends and reduce its carbon footprint. To achieve these objectives, leaders first thought about current challenges with the traditional delivery infrastructure.

“So many times, we’ve heard people complain about how infrastructure works: There’s congestion on the roads, the roads are planned poorly, the traffic stops are not efficient enough to let heavy traffic through smoothly, and there is also the cost of tolls,” Roos explains. “In other words, there are a lot of challenges surrounding the basic commute and local delivery of goods. So, if we’re able to develop a new service that solves this, my thinking was, as early adopters, we would have more of a say over the future of the drone delivery industry.”

The solution

DSV’s air and sea division partnered with Drone Delivery Canada to reach its goals by test-flying unmanned, autonomous cargo delivery drones in two projects. The drones, named The Sparrow, can carry a payload of 10 pounds within their enclosed, climate-controlled bodies.

The first project lasted 15 months and included multiple trips in which the drones carried confidential documents and high-value, time-sensitive goods from one DroneSpot — Drone Delivery Canada’s proprietary takeoff and landing depot — located on the north side of DSV’s 1.2 million-square-foot facility to another DroneSpot on the south side of the facility, approximately a quarter mile away. Once the package was delivered, the drone sent a notification to the designated employee. The employee then went to the DroneSpot location, entered a code to unlock the DroneSpot door and retrieved the secured cargo.

“Between the North DroneSpot location and the South DroneSpot, there are dozens of loading docks with 18-wheeler trucks moving in and out of the facility every day,” explains Michael Zahra, CEO of Drone Delivery Canada. “Of course, these deliveries could be driven from one side of the facility to the other, but this is time-consuming. In addition, extra trips could interfere with other cargo traffic, which could be very disruptive. Instead, our drones allow [DSV] to bypass all of that while ensuring this sensitive cargo doesn’t pass through many hands other than who it’s intended for.”

A second three-month project involved delivering health care cargo via drone from a DSV DroneSpot to an off-site customer approximately 2.5 miles away. The customer site also had its own version of a DroneSpot for receiving the delivery. This type of DroneSpot is a secure, fenced-in area with a net and a door with access controls. Once the drone arrived at the customer’s DroneSpot, it lowered to a predetermined altitude that is low enough to drop the cargo without damaging it, dropped the cargo into the cargo net, and then returned to DSV’s facility. Zahra explains that the drone’s drop-off feature accounts for the fact that there may not always be sufficient space for a full DroneSpot at a commercial or ultimately a residential delivery destination.

The results

With Drone Delivery Canada’s autonomous, self-navigating and fully electric Sparrow drone, DSV was able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 23% per package delivered when compared with traditional delivery by diesel truck. 

In addition, DSV found it was able to deliver goods to customers much faster. In the second project, in which the drone delivered health care goods from DSV’s Milton headquarters to the client, DSV saw a 90% time savings with drone delivery versus traditional local truck delivery.

“It is quicker to put one box into a drone, mark it for takeoff and send it off,” Roos says. “About three or four minutes later, the consignment is delivered. If the box were sent by a delivery truck, you’d have to get it on-site, find its dock door, load the truck and send the truck on its way. You’re easily talking about two hours. If we have the inventory, we can deliver to our clients much more quickly [via drone], which opens up opportunities like just-in-time delivery or sequencing.”

Plus, because all flying routes are monitored from Drone Delivery Canada’s control center and have been preapproved by Transport Canada, DSV could fly with the confidence that its routes had been fully vetted from a regulatory standpoint.

Lastly, now that DSV has experience working with drones, it will be able to use this experience to further the development of drone delivery technology. “We see that this is where the global economy is moving in terms of innovation and sustainability,” Roos says. “Finding new modes of transportation and meeting customers’ evolving needs are keys to success. We want to be an integral part in developing the future of the industry.”

Don't miss logistics and last-mile delivery sessions at the ASCM CONNECT Annual Conference on October 25 -27, 2021.

About the Author

Aaron Broverman

Aaron Broverman is a freelance business-to-business journalist based in Waterloo, Ontario.

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