FPS takes flight with first commercial UK drone delivery

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On 13th March 2015, FPS, a nationwide supply chain solution provider, completed what is believed to be the first UK B2B delivery to be made by a drone.

FPS takes flight with drone delivery

FPS carries out first UK commercial B2B drone delivery

On 13th March 2015, FPS, a nationwide supply chain solution provider, completed what is believed to be the first UK B2B delivery to be made by a drone.

The trial was a “proof of concept” project, investigating the feasibility of drones being used to carry out an immediate, local service. Whilst current legislation and restrictions on the size and weight of items carried mean that deliveries of this kind will not be commonplace any time soon for FPS, the exercise has made it clear that the possibility cannot be ruled out completely.

FPS Managing Director Neil Davis says “we are constantly striving to find the most innovative and effective ways to service our customers. In an industry where time is critical, if we are able to get to our customers more quickly, in a way that aligns with our business ethos, we will continue to invest in making that a reality. In the short term, the drone solution is likely to be cost prohibitive, and with current legislation we are not planning any changes any time soon. In addition, given the varied weight of products in our portfolio, it would only really be viable for lightweight parts travelling to customers in less populated zones. However this has proved a very useful exercise to form our future vision.”

This project is part of the company’s clear focus on maintaining their industry-leading position far into the future. In 2002, FPS led the way with eTrading within the automotive aftermarket, and now conduct 75% of their £150m turnover electronically.

The concept video can be viewed on the FPS website at http://www.fpsdistribution.com.

Project details

The product delivered was a Gates belt tensioner, from the comprehensive FPS automotive aftermarket product range. FPS is the long term distribution partner for the Gates brand in the UK. The item was delivered from the FPS National Distribution Centre in Sheffield, to local customer Brakeline, a member of the GROUPAUTO trading group.

FPS partnered with Yorkshire-based experts Droneflight (http://www.droneflight.info) for the project. One modified DJI s1000 drone and a DJI Inspire 1 were used to complete and film the delivery. The s1000 was adapted to carry a branded weatherproof box to hold the product for delivery. At a speed of up to 30mph, it could travel about 7 miles on one battery.

All activities adhered to the strict regulations regarding drone use, including line of sight flying, and safe distance zones for staff and public, particularly at take-off and landing. The total weight was limited to under 7kg, and all drones were operated by qualified pilots with permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for aerial work.

Several challenges had to be overcome, such as metal racking in the warehouse interfering with the drone’s compass, and weather conditions, mostly wind, making for difficult flight conditions.

Andrew Griffiths from Droneflight says “We were very excited to work with FPS on this project, and be part of this ground-breaking delivery. Drones have the potential to transform many activities not just filming. Inspection, surveying, mapping and even disaster relief all benefit from this technology.”

Current weight restrictions and legislation around the use of drones, particularly over populated areas, mean that much in the industry will need to change before this is a workable option for regular deliveries.

About FPS

FPS is one of the UK’s leading providers of service-led supply chain solutions. Founded in 1934, and employing over 1,000 people, it operates from 22 sites in the UK with a fleet of 300 delivery vans delivering to over 4000 trade customers daily. Acting as a distribution partner for a number of major brands, its core business is providing automotive parts, accessories and consumables to the reseller network. Through recent expansion, FPS now successfully provides distribution services in the Travel & Leisure sectors and also works with a number of national retailers providing logistic services for their supply chain.

Dedicated to service excellence and innovation, the company offers a wide range of services meeting the varying needs of manufacturers, suppliers, resellers and business consumers across the supply chain, most recently including the addition of an e-fulfilment service.

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Karen McKim
FPS
+44 1789 413 050
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FPS Distribution Ltd

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