It wasn’t that long ago that drones were the preserve of the military and dystopian science fiction movies. But today, drones are everywhere, impacting our daily lives on an increasingly regular and innovative basis.

Some of the reasons for this mainstream adoption in the consumer market include more competitive drone pricing, smaller sizes and more widespread availability. Whether it’s a kid using a drone as a toy or a serious photographer utilising one to capture that once-in-a-lifetime shot, drones are fast becoming household favourites.

Another area where drones are really taking off and making a significant impact is in the business of delivering packages.

It’s no secret that consumers today demand levels of service that are almost instant – seamless online ordering, immediate dispatch and same-day delivery are all things that consumers are coming to expect. Drones hold the key when it comes to delivering on consumers’ same-day delivery expectations.

But drone delivery is like nothing we’ve seen before. Sure, packages have been sent internationally by air for years, but that happens in bulk. What about single item deliveries over a short distance or almost instant deliveries to remote locations?

Until now, drone operators in Britain were restricted by UK air regulations that stated they could not fly their unmanned vehicles beyond line-of-sight. However, a major overhaul of the UK’s air traffic control system looks set to make drone deliveries a reality as early as 2019, according to a report in The Times.

Smart, small, lightweight & robust at the very least

So what does this all mean for the packaging industry? Well, for a start, packaging products themselves are going to need to keep up with demand for drone delivery and ensure they are up to the job.

The obvious consideration that springs to mind is weatherproofing. Drone deliveries cannot be placed on hold due to a spot of rain, which means any packaging used must be able to keep its contents dry and secure.

Then there’s the weight factor to consider. While drones are better and more powerful than they’ve ever been, they still don’t possess the carrying power of a person, so any packaging that’s going to be used for drone deliveries needs to be as small and lightweight as possible.

There’s even been talk of packages being dropped from drones using parachutes. Specifically, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Amazon a patent in 2017 for a method to guide packages dropped from drones safely to the ground [source: CNN].

But what if these parachutes fail to deploy altogether or still result in the package having a rather heavy landing? While all eyes will be on the drone looking for answers it’s the packaging that could be the saviour of the day, providing it’s robust enough to cope with the mishap.

The final consideration is if the packaging needs to be smart. In other words, does it need to incorporate additional digital information in the form of sensors or other communication features? Autonomous drone deliveries seem extremely likely, but without someone physically operating them how will they know exactly where to go? The key could lie in the information contained within or on the packaging itself.

In fact, the smart packaging industry is expected to reach £21bn by 2024 - a reality that highlights just how pivotal such innovations are likely to become as drone deliveries increase in popularity and frequency.

In Short...

So, as drone deliveries become more popular, we’re looking at packaging that needs to be smart, boasts weatherproofing properties, is small/lightweight and robust enough to handle potentially bumpy landings.

What do you think? Are drone deliveries going to really take off or is it all a load of hot air?

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