McKinnon, Alan C.

The Possible Impact of 3D Printing and Drones on Last-mile Logistics: an Exploratory Study

Built Environment, 42 (4): 588-576, (2016).

Copy reference link   DOI: 10.2148/benv.42.4.617

Abstract: 3D printing and drones may have the potential to transform the movement of freight in urban areas, particularly on the so-called 'last mile' to the home. This paper reviews available evidence on the likely scalability of these innovations in a city logistics context and assesses their possible impact on urban traffic levels. The research is essentially exploratory as the application of these innovations to urban logistics is at a very early stage. The evidence comes mainly from published sources, supplemented by discussions with a mixed group of researchers and practitioners. It suggests that both innovations would have the potential to transform city logistics if their adoption rates were high. The rapid growth of online retailing is conducive to a high level of uptake. There are, however, good reasons for believing that their application will remain limited, at least in the short to medium term. Their diffusion will be constrained by several factors including a lack of scale economies, limited value-add and regulation.

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