Last updated: May 22, 2020
Will we ever deliver to Mars?
A logistics scenario that may not seem necessary, but it could be more relevant than you may think. The way we receive deliveries has evolved in the last few decades. In the midst of a pandemic, we’re seeing new trends in the way that we buy, deliver and receive goods. There is no doubt that the changes and processes coming out of this time will have a profound effect on the industry as a whole. In the meantime, products continue to reach customers progressively quicker, and with greater efficiency for businesses. In 10 years, autonomous vehicles and drones are on target to be the norm, diminishing the need for drivers. But what’s next?
- Can we expect international deliveries by rocketship in our lifetime?
- Could deliveries be eradicated entirely, with 3D printing of purchases available in our homes?
- Will we ever ship to Mars?
Surprisingly, there are predictions that the answer is “yes” to all the above. We answer some far-fetched questions about deliveries over the next century… Some concepts could be delivering packages sooner than you think.
We could be delivering mail to Mars
Shipping to somewhere that’s 225 million kilometres away doesn’t seem like a necessary venture. Beyond that, why would we need to? There are no beings inhabiting Mars to receive a package. Well, there will be deliveries to Mars sooner than you may expect. The first cargo mission to Mars is set to take place in 2022, using Space X’s latest rocket, Starship. While life on Mars might be a while away for us, the rocket is going there for that purpose. The first mission includes delivering the initial infrastructure for power, mining, and life support. What’s particularly special about this mission is its engineering. The rocket is built to be reusable, flying to and from Mars to deliver further cargo. In fact, its second mission will be equipped with both cargo and crew, and predicted to occur in 2024. The plan is that these first few missions will build the foundations of the first Mars base. With this rocket, it’s predicted there will be life on Mars. The engineering of a reusable rocket opens the doors for big changes, the ability to build a thriving city and eventually a self-sustaining civilization. So, in the next 100 years, we might be delivering mail to and from your long-distance relatives on Mars.
Rockets could deliver “instantly” across the world
Rockets were once used to propel spacecraft and missiles. With air travel, using rockets for delivery hasn’t hit the market. Surprisingly though, this fast delivery method was actually trialled. Back in 1959, the USPS (United States Postal Service) delivered 3000 pieces of mail by a rocket for the first time… and last time. “Rocket mail” sparked enthusiasm and some predicted its significance. But, air travel was far cheaper, and quick enough for the times. Nowadays, our world is far more connected – thanks to the internet. Our expectations have also changed. Consumers are increasingly looking for convenience in their day-to-day lives and buying goods is no exception. This became a necessity when COVID-19 swept the world, forcing people to social distance and self-isolate. The need for e-commerce and speedy deliveries became a necessity for many businesses across the world. There are predictions that with rockets such as Space X’s Starship, deliveries could see a shift on Earth too. Using its engineering to create courier and travel rockets, deliveries could travel over 27,000 kph. Talk about speedy deliveries. With that speed you could get anywhere around the world in 60 minutes – though most flights would take even less. For example, a flight from Los Angeles to London currently takes about 10.5 hours. With rocket travel, we’d be looking at 32 minutes.
Our future warehouses may be fully managed by a team of robots
It’s estimated that the number of commercial robotics in warehouses will grow by 1200% by 2025. This prediction may be even closer to reality now as organizations look for ways to modify warehouses for increased safety measures in the era of physical distancing. It’s suggested that jobs in structured environments won’t need human labour for much longer. There is one example of a fully automated warehouse already in function. An e-commerce giant recently opened a 40,000 sq ft facility in China. The warehouse is operated solely by robots, sustained with no need for human labour. Tasks once performed by humans have been taken over by automation and robotics, and this trend was expected to continue long before physical distancing measures were put into place. These tasks include packing, lifting, and transporting packages to loading docks. While the mechanics of fully-automated warehouses have already been implemented, there is still room for further implementation.
Crowdsourced deliveries could be completed by flying cars
One prediction is that autonomous vehicles may diminish the need for drivers from crowdsourced delivery models. However, the predictions from the 1980s sci-fi classic, Back to the Future, could still come to life (if just a little late). Several companies have launched flying vehicle prototypes for both public transportation and deliveries. The crowdsourced transportation company, Uber, recently announced its plan to start testing its flying car demonstrations. With all things running smoothly, they predict that “Uber Air” flights could be commercially available in at least three cities by 2023. To book a flight, passengers will simply access the service from the Uber app, like any other ride.
For delivery models, there’s more focus on drones, with e-commerce companies already testing their capabilities. Though, drones miss out on a crucial element – not all packages can be properly handled by a robot. Items such as larger, valuable, or sensitive cargo are still likely to need the human touch in the foreseeable future. During the pandemic, you’ve probably noticed the way that you receive packages has changed. Most packages are left on doorsteps with minimal to no human interaction required. These measures provided safety during COVID-19, but it’s easy to see how these principles can be applied to increase the convenience with which you order goods. Also, drones only have the capacity to drop off packages outside of a building whereas a human can carry a package upstairs or inside. This human touch benefits people with disabilities and those residing in apartments/condominiums. Beyond the benefits, there are still a few considerations beyond the limitations of flying cars. Air traffic control regulations and safety concerns still need to be officially addressed. And, if flying vehicles become mainstream, other materials, such as landing pads at every pick-up/drop off location, will need to be produced too.
3D home printers might be the sustainable alternative answer to transported deliveries
The 3D printing process has been around for a few decades. More recently, advanced structures such as food, body organs, and entire houses can be produced. To print these items though, printers need the right materials – at a costly price tag. Predictions about personal 3D printers vary. Some experts don’t expect 3D printers to exist in homes within our lifetime. Others believe they’ll be in our homes within 10 years – and, that 3D printers will be able to print anything by 2038. COVID-19 may have put more pressure on increasing the feasibility of 3D printers in general. If (or when) 3D printing does take off, the changes to the way we receive our purchases could be changed forever. You’d no longer have to wait for the delivery of your purchase to appear.
One day we may even be able to teleport our deliveries
This is by far the most futuristic question and one we can’t provide a definite answer to, because…who knows? There’s a theory it’s possible though. Everything is made up of atoms. Quantum physics and teleportation understands that items can be broken down into atoms. These atoms could be sent through a channel to the destination and are recomposed into their original form. Teleportation is still very much in the hands of scientists though. If teleportation is mastered, purchases will no longer need any traditional styles of transportation. They may just appear at the click of a “buy” button.