From Essential Supplies to Consumer Goods, Drone Delivery Gathers Steam in MEA

drone delivery

When it comes to last-mile logistics, drone delivery is one of the technologies gaining traction with the promise to transform the way consumers receive goods and supplies.

But while there have been a few instances of successful drone delivery schemes in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been cautious in handing out licenses for autonomous flying vehicles out of concerns over safety.

After all, with thousands of commercial flights and countless private aircraft already crisscrossing U.S. airspace every day, adding fleets of unmanned delivery drones into the equation could be disastrous if not done carefully.

Elsewhere, however, drones have been successfully deployed for a range of delivery services in countries with fewer commercial flight paths and generally less crowded skies, where they offer a clear advantage over alternative means of transportation.

In the Middle East and Africa, for example, a handful of companies are steaming ahead, turning this once-futuristic technology into an everyday reality.

As PYMNTS reported recently, unmanned aerial vehicles have been especially embraced by healthcare providers in Africa, where the likes of Wingcopter, Zipline and Swoop Aero have successfully rolled out drone delivery schemes for essential medical supplies.

Read more: Drone Delivery Services Shape Africa’s Healthcare Space

In Rwanda, where 82% of the population live in rural areas, according to the World Bank, the ability to quickly transport life-saving medicines and blood is having a tangible impact on isolated communities that are difficult to reach by road.

And besides emergency medical aid, there are a myriad of ways drone delivery can further benefit remote communities.

In a more commercial application of the technology, last month it was announced that the pan-African eCommerce business Jumia was teaming up with Zipline to expand delivery services to customers in remote parts of Ghana.

By combining Zipline’s automated, on-demand delivery system with Jumia’s distribution network, the partnership aims to enable Ghanaians living in rural areas to purchase and receive electronics, cosmetics, and other products sold by Jumia that were previously only available to their urban peers.

Related: Jumia, Zipline Partner to Bring eCommerce Drone Delivery to Ghana

Oman, Israel Help Fuel Drone Innovation

The benefits drones present to remote areas have also been touted by UAE-based logistics business Aramex, which last week successfully tested its drone delivery service in Muscat, Oman.

“Through the successful drone delivery testing, we have proven that these automated modes of delivery will enable us to further enhance the speed, accessibility and reliability of package deliveries, especially to remote areas with hard-to-reach terrain,” Aramex Chief Operating Officer Alaa Saoudi said of the pilot.

Following the successful test, Aramex intends to scale the program across the Middle East and other markets in which it operates.

In fact, the Middle East is emerging as an important region for drone innovation globally.

Not only does UVL Robotics, the firm that built the drones used in Aramax’s test flight, have a research and development facility in Oman and a regional office in Abu Dhabi, but several drone delivery startups have also been founded in the region.

In Israel, for example, the burgeoning commercial drone sector has benefitted from cross-pollination between the country’s well-established military drone industry.

And while Israeli drone startups might be making waves in the delivery space, the country is also a pioneer in other novel applications of autonomous flying vehicles.

These range from the flying fruit-picking robots developed by Tevel to Percepto’s remote inspection drones, which are being deployed in mines, construction sites, power plants and other industrial sites that need to be monitored for safety and performance.

Learn more: Charleys Turns to Drones for Delivery Margin Lift

Back in the more familiar territory of food distribution, perhaps the most well-known Israeli drone startup, Flytrex, has been one of the few companies to have successfully deployed the technology in the U.S., where Flytrex drones power delivery services for the likes of U.S. restaurant chain Charleys Philly Steaks.

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