This is the age of disruption - in terms of industry, and the way we do things now (and maybe 5-10 years ago). While it would be great to have a low-cost way of delivery all the way to the doorstep free from traffic, vehicular and personnel woes especially for small businesses, drones are still machines needing regular maintenance, capable of malfunctioning, getting hacked, or worse case, being turned into suicidal kamikaze ninjas with 8 sets of high speed razor sharp blades. Also, can they take the elevator?
Plus, I like it when I get my parcels delivered with a smile!
So, where do the drones come in, in terms of changing the transportation landscape? I see a few possibilities, some of which have been put in practice by the larger companies like Amazon and DHL. Drones in their current size can only carry a few KGs worth of cargo, so using them to deliver emergency supplies in dangerous or remote areas would be very useful. Or, if a small delivery needs to be made outside of scheduled flights and land transport timetables, this could work as well.
However, in the future, when safety issues and aviation regulations allow for it, drones could be larger in size, and reduce the cost of manned transport between major and remote distribution points. For example, in Malaysia, the distribution to smaller towns is less frequent as truckers will wait for a critical mass before planning a delivery in order to consolidate their costs. Using unmanned drones, this would be a thing of the past, as the cost of manpower + potential overtime and claims would be negated leaving only the cost of drone fuel and maintenance. With more reliable shipping, economies in smaller towns could face brighter futures & a country's wealth could be more evenly spread.
If drones are currently working the container yards in Singapore, what's to stop unmanned cargo ships from plying dangerous waters? With today's technology, a fully automated carrier ship transmits all the data from the various sensors and drivers on board via satellite to remote captains in HQ - a safe distance away from pirates and adverse weather conditions. Captain Phillips would have been at home safe sipping hot chocolate on a rainy day instead of thinking his life was going to be over....
But for the last mile? I still think a smiling human face delivering the items I desire would make me a happier shopper versus a drone paging me in my office lobby to pick up my parcel...