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Logistics & Fulfilment

Online marketplace launches urban drone delivery service

Iceland’s largest online marketplace, AHA, has partnered with drone company Flytrex to launch the world’s first urban drone delivery service.

The delivery service, which has been approved by the Icelandic Transport Authority, allows drones to carry food and consumer products from shops and restaurants on one side of Reykjavík to a designated location across the bay.

From that point, couriers either walk or drive orders to customers’ doorsteps. AHA and Flytrex say drones can cross the bay in four minutes, while delivery trucks currently take 25 minutes to drive around it.

The drones can carry up to three kilograms, and while the service currently handles one delivery at a time, multiple deliveries are possible.

The launch of the urban drone delivery service is an important milestone for those who see drones as the future of last-mile fulfilment, which remains a significant challenge, both in terms of the cost and time required to physically distribute parcels to each individual, not to mention the hassle of missed deliveries.

As more people buy more things online, and expect to receive them more quickly, these challenges are only magnifying. Amazon last month filed a patent in the US for a “multi-level fulfilment centre for unmanned aerial vehicles”, in other words, a hub for drones.

Still, many remain skeptical of the feasibility of thousands of drones operating in major cities, many of which currently prohibit commercial drone use. And with a population of just over 122,000, Reykjavík doesn’t exactly provide a blueprint for how drone delivery could work in places like New York or even Sydney.

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