“Having grown up in a small town in rural America, I had a few friends who were farmers. When harvest time came around each year, I remember hearing about their fancy combines guided by GPS. I just sit there in the air-conditioned cab and play on my phone while the combine goes back and forth across the field. This was years ago, and a self-driving combine was a luxury since so much of their day-to-day work outside of this new machinery was arduous and difficult,” says Matthew Wittemeier, who is responsible for Marketing at INFORM’s Logistics Division.
The concept of autonomous drones, robots, and self-driving vehicles (SDVs) is now becoming commonplace. We’re now on the cusp of eliminating the cab and allowing the farmer to sit in front of a laptop, tablet, or even use their smartphone to direct the combine. That said, we’re about to see a drastic uptick in the amount of capital expenditure and implementation of drone, robotics, and SDV technology across the logistics industry.
Labour shortages, Amazon, luxury convenience, 5G technology, the last mile, and consumer demand for the free delivery of goods within hours are regular discussions across the logistics industry. Underpinning many of these discussions is also the broader Industry 4.0 one: the automation of services by robots and AI technologies. In 2017, INFORM put together a three-part blog series titled Drones, Robots and Selfdriving vehicles: Reshaping the Logistics Industry which was also published in the 2018 book Exploring New Frontiers: Reshaping the Postal Industry.
Now, three years on from the first release of that series, we’ve taken the time to dust it off and look at what’s changed around these automated technologies and what the near future might look like for them. Again, for the sake of this discussion, we’ll continue to focus on three categories of automated vehicles: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, aka drones), land-based small vehicles (robots), and automotive self-driving vehicles (SDV).
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