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Using drones in the last-mile-logistics processes of medical product delivery: a feasibility case study in Rotterdam

Publication of Sustainable Port Cities
J.H.R. Duin,van, | Conference contribution | Publication date: 12 January 2020
The term last-mile delivery refers to the final leg of a business-to-customer service, in which products are shipped from a depot to a destination point bymeans of land transportation, such as vans and small trucks. Although these vehicles provide a common and easy way to consign products, companies are striving for new transport technologies to reduce congestion, infrastructure limitations and air pollution. An alternative to road-bounded vehicles that has recently gained attention is the adoption of drones in parcel delivery. Drone applications range from military training, surveillance, path recognition and shipment of perishable products in emergency situations. Research on drones as delivery vehicles is still in its early stages, with some practical trials carried out by leader companies such as Google and Amazon. However, the application of drones in the pharmaceutical sector for home deliveries of medical products, has not been investigated yet. To gain new insights into the feasibility of introducing drones in the delivery fleet, drone applications were studied for the delivery operations of the pharmacy BENU ’t Slag, in Rotterdam. Two scenario alternatives were tested using the Vehicle Routing Problem formulation. A Large-scale Neighborhood Search algorithm was implemented to solve the problem and derive the performance indicators associated with each scenario. Performances were then analyzed through a comparative analysis. When drones were introduced in the delivery fleet, indicators showed improvements in environmental aspects, service time and delivery costs, with a reduction of 9% in CO2 emissions, 12% in service time and 5.6% in cost per item.

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