Container ship backlogs and other disruptions to port operations around the world can result in long and costly delays for logistics providers and their customers, but research on several fronts points to one promising technology that could help keep the supply chain moving.
From Corpus Christi to Hamburg to Singapore, public- and private-sector initiatives are under way to develop new uses for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—drones—to address inevitable issues at ports that impede the flow of the $14 trillion in goods transported by ship every year.
Ports have been adopting drones gradually to perform operational tasks such as security and surveillance, but new uses such as inspection of port infrastructure assets, mapping and surveying for construction projects, and pollution control are rapidly becoming more prevalent.
In fact, ports and other industries included in the transportation and warehousing sector under the NAICS Industry Code are projected to be the fastest-growing users of drone technology over the next few years, ranking No. 2 behind only the energy sector in drone usage by 2025.
“Ports are turning to drones to achieve real benefits in cost optimization, process improvement and quicker decision-making,” said Somil Gautam, assistant general manager for industrial applications for drone manufacturer ideaForge Technology.
Drones help ports improve safety by de-risking dangerous activities such as port crane inspections, trim labor costs and make ports less vulnerable to worker shortages, reduce carbon emissions and even sniff out vessels violating low-sulfur fuel emissions standards.
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