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Will drones fly in retail? The sky’s not the only limit (STORES Magazine)

March 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Articles and Features

drones in retail storesOnce reserved for sci-fi movies and high-tech war efforts, drones are quickly becoming part of the broader landscape. Amazon made headlines with its plans to make deliveries via drone, but there’s an entire world of opportunity beyond that. Drones can help retailers in ways they’ve never imagined, from site selection and store design to security, building science and logistics. Experts say the technology is already here: As soon as regulators catch up, drones could make a big buzz in retail.

Drones are generally defined as unmanned aircraft. They come in all shapes, sizes and prices, from $100 toys the size of a baseball to multi-million dollar military machines the size of a vehicle. While drones have been around for years, new technology has made them easier to operate and cheaper than ever.

Real estate agents use them to capture property photos and construction companies fly them to track progress on job sites. Drones are being used in Africa to survey wildlife populations; in China, the government is using them to crack down on polluters. Amazon wants to use drones in its Prime Air service to make small deliveries to customers’ doorsteps within 30 minutes, but rules proposed last month by the Federal Aviation Administration will likely preclude that type of usage in the United States for the foreseeable future.

Retail industry futurist Doug Stephens says technology evolves so fast that the implausible can become the norm within a few years, pointing to the Internet and smartphones as examples of technological advances that went from obscurity to mainstream adoption by consumers and retailers in a short time. Stephens says the possibilities with drones are “too compelling for retailers to ignore.”

“While we sit here in North America debating whether Amazon will eventually deliver packages by drone, DHL is already doing it in Germany,” he says. “Things that seem improbable today could absolutely become commonplace in 10 years.”

Read the full article at STORES Magazine.

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