Season 5, Post 11: The drones are coming
A world away from imploding financial institutions, exciting developments are afoot in the drone industry. These delivery devices, whose merits we’ve been advocating since last year, are becoming more sophisticated. What are still seen by some as a novelty are on the way to becoming much more commonplace.
Zipline, the world’s largest drone logistics service, announced last week a short-route delivery system in the US. It has partnered to-date with hospitals and restaurant chains in three American states with the idea that prescriptions, lab tests and take-away food can be delivered rapidly. Zipline says that its drones can cover distances of up to 10 miles in no more than 10 minutes. The accuracy of the P2 Zip drone is apparently such that it will land your package on an area as small as your patio table. Not to be outdone, Wing (a drone business backed by Alphabet) says that it is currently trialling successfully drone deliveries at scale – up to 1,000 packages a day – in both Australia and Ireland.
Despite such encouraging developments, the ultimate home-delivery option may still be some time away for most of us. Sure, the speed and accuracy of drones is improving at a rapid rate – and will only get better – but regulators require convincing. Almost no guidelines are in place currently. Making deliveries in more rural areas (where most trials occur) is markedly easier than drone drops amidst skyscrapers in dense city centres. Watch the videos on either the Zipline or Wing sites and you see beautiful blue skies populated by the odd drone. Avoiding potential drone crashes in urban areas and contemplating how drones may behave in stormy or foggy weather are quite different matters.
Almost $5bn was invested in drone industry start-ups last year (per Drone Industry Insights), indicative of the growing interest in the space. And if transporting packages by air was not exciting enough, then consider that it’s only a matter of time until humans might get to go places by drone. An increasing number of electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) services are being trialled at present. BETA Technologies announced last week a revised, more energy efficient, version of its transport solution, which is currently being reviewed by the Federal Aviation Authority. Trial users seem to like what they’ve seen so far, with Air New Zealand having apparently already placed a pre-emptive order. While it’s hard to pick winners at this stage, what we do know is that more drones mean more data – good news for the broader digital (and semiconductor) ecosystem.
21 March 2023
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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