Can you imagine? Plane sized autonomous delivery vehicles zooming above major metropolitan areas delivering goods that could radically transform the cargo industry.
According to The Verge, delivery drones are being pilot tested across the country. In the last 5.5 months, Amazon has announced plans to deliver packages, Alphabet's Wing received FAA approval for deliveries, and UPS has been testing its medical drone delivery service in Northern Virginia.
Instead of sending truckloads of goods on congested highways, cargo drones can seamlessly fly between distribution centers and businesses, reducing their carbon footprint but also cutting down delivery time significantly.
The Verge noted that cargo drones are "coming in all shapes and sizes."
Last month, Boeing completed the first outdoor flight tests of the cargo air vehicle (CAV). The CAV is designed to carry a payload up to 500 pounds.
Sabrewing, a startup in Camarillo, Calif., is developing a prototype cargo-carrying drone that's due to begin test flights in 2020. The drone can fly 180 knots (207 miles per hour) with a cruising altitude of 22,000-feet.
Cargo drone startup Natilus is working on a 30-foot drone that's about the size and weight of a General Atomics' MQ-1 Predator.
Sichuan Tengden Technology, a Bejing based Chinese startup company, is developing a cargo drone that can haul 20 tons of cargo.
Each of these companies is developing a long-range cargo drone, hoping they can be the first to soar through the skies.
Natilus, Sichuan Tengden Technology, and Elroy Air are expected to be operational by next year.
Elroy Air's autonomous Chaparral system is expected to partner with FedEx, DHL, and UPS for package deliveries. According to David Merrill, CEO of Elroy Air, building cargo drones at this scale has been an enormous investment, but it'll likely pay off in the coming years
Airfreight accounts for about 1% of world trade volume (by tonnage) and 35% of the world trade volume when determined by the value of shipped goods. With the proliferation of cargo drones, set to launch in the next several years, it seems that the transportation industry will go through a transformation period. But don't expect these drones to fly overhead in this economic cycle, the technology will be in high demand after the next global recession by companies who need innovative technologies to cut down on cost.