Tech Solutions for (Fashion) Retailers - Drones will be Replacing Delivery Boy

The technology evolution in our everyday life, changing the way how the world does business. Today in the world of fast fashion people are ready to spend money to get the product within minutes at their fingertips.

In the current situation where a computer drives us from one part to another part or we get our product from a flying unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sounds like something sci-fi, however, that is the place we're going. In the current situation, people are more tech-savvy for the right product and right on time. Due to this tech giants are more focusing on fast delivery of product in right place at the right time.

Now just because of this reason, the fastest logistics company are in advantage of serving the people and they are doing a competition in proving better technology and service. However, a new term has come into the market that is last-mile delivery with the help of drones and automatic vehicles.

Their popularity was powered by a series of technology advancements, including the following:
  • Miniaturization of electro-mechanical parts (some smaller than 0.01 millimeter).
  • gyroscopes which serve as stabilizers.
  • GPS availability.
  • Weight reduction for all components including a lightweight and energy-dense lithium battery
  • High-torque brushless motors. 
Along with their commercialization, drone prices decreased significantly, allowing anyone to buy a magnificent toy for under USD 100. (Greenshpan, June, 2018)

Let’s see what BCG says, about the future of drones.

Throughout two decades organizations will give modern automatons something to work on monitoring facilities, tracking shipments, and maybe the delivering the grocery to your doorstep. BCG says that by 2050, the industrial drone fleet in Europe and the US will involve in excess of 1 million units and create $50 billion every year in product and service revenues. (Alexandre Amoukteh, 2017).
Now have look how new startup has come with new ideas in last minutes delivery

How Matternet works & facility they provide

Matternet is the developer of the world’s leading technology platform for on-demand aerial delivery in urban environments. The company provides its technology platform as a service to healthcare, e-commerce and logistics organizations. In March 2017, Matternet became the first company in the world to be authorized for full operations of drone logistics networks over densely populated areas in Switzerland. In May 2018, Matternet was selected to carry out drone logistics operations for US hospitals under the FAA's drone integration program. Matternet has active partnerships with and is funded by the Boeing Company and Mercedes-Benz Vans.

  • This quad drone designed to carry payloads of up to 2 kilograms and 4 liters over distances of up to 20 kilometers. 
  • Easy-to-use interface for sending and receiving packages 24/7/365. Automated payload and battery exchange.
  • Matternet’s receives customer requests, generates routes, monitors, commands and controls all operating Matternet assets. 
  • An end-to-end solution integrating the Matternet M2 Drone, the Matternet Station and the Matternet Cloud. 
  • They provide works PAAS (platform as a service) to healthcare, e-commerce and logistics organizations.

How Matternet’s autonomous flying vehicles works

Drones are now ultra-flexible, fully automated logistics networks. Matternet uses three key technology.
  • Flying vehicles (Electric autonomous flying vehicles)
  • Landing Stations (Autonomous ground station, where the vehicles fly in out to swap batteries, and fly further or pick up and deliver loads)
  • Routing software (operation system that manages the whole network)
This autonomous flying vehicle use GPS and other sensors on board to navigate between the ground station, and every vehicle has an automatic payload and battery exchange mechanism, so these vehicles navigate to those ground stations, they dock, swap a battery automatically.

Now the ground stations are located on safe locations on the ground, and it's secure the most vulnerable part of the mission, which is the landing. They are at the known location of the ground, so the path between them is also known which is very important from a reliability perspective.

Last is the operating system which monitors weather data from all the ground stations and optimizes the route of the vehicles through the system to avoid adverse weather conditions.

What will be the cost of delivery?

24 cents of 2kg over 10km range

2 kg over 10 km
3   cents
9   cents
10 cents
2    cents
$ 3000
(Matternet, n.d.)

Flirtey, a Reno, Nevada-based drone delivery company

This company completed the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved drone delivery in the United States in 2015, the first FAA-approved urban delivery in March 2016 and the first FAA-approved commercial drone delivery to a customer home in July 2016. Flirtey is also developing air traffic control computer software for drones in a collaboration with NASA. One of the company's drones is in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia, 2018). Flirtey uses drones as a delivery of the product generally in the health center, it drops the product with the help of a rope from certain height to the ground.

Figure-2: Drone

Founders: Tom Bass, Ahmed Haider, Matthew Sweeny (CEO)
Launched: 2013
Headquarters: Reno, Nevada
Funding: $16 million
Valuation: N/A
Key technologies: Drones/UAVs, robotics
Disrupting: Drones, logistics, robots
(CNBC, 2018)

Tech innovation in Drones

Motion Tracking Technologies is the process of recording the movement of objects or people & capture the Time and Location position of objects (in motion) to quantify store performance and analyze in-store (anonymous) customer behaviors.

In motion tracking technologies, tracking is the positional measurement of bodies (subjects or objects) that move in a defined space. Position and/or orientation of the body can be measured. If just X, Y and Z position are measured, we call these 3 degrees of freedom (3DOF or 3D) tracking. If position (3 coordinates) and orientation (3 independent angular coordinates) are measured simultaneously, we call these 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF or 6D) tracking. (Advanced Real-time Tracking, n.d.)

This motion tracking technology now days can be implemented in drone camera to track the customer inside the store to give the real-time data. As drone can cover every corner of a store to figure, with the help of this technologies, drone actually can measure below points.
  • Mall traffic, why on this floor?
  • Mall traffic capture rate
  • Path analysis trajectory
  • Activity-based costing
  • People counting
  • Buying behavior/pattern
  • Customer service (Walmart patented)

Obstacle Detection and Collision Avoidance Technology

Now a day’s drones are come up with new technology that is obstacle detection and collision avoidance technology. These drone vision systems use obstacle detection sensors to scan the surroundings in six directions. Here, Simultaneous localization and mapping or SLAM are extremely important technology when it comes to drones in detecting and avoiding obstacles.

SLAM is a process whereby a drone device can create a 3D map of its surroundings, and orient itself properly within this map in real time. (Ascending Technology, n.d.) (video link)

Drone photography

Drone photography allows images and audio/video to be captured that might not be otherwise possible for human photographers and videographers. Drone photography often enables a first-person view (FPV) that would normally be impossible to achieve. FPV cameras are small, light and reasonably priced. The FPV camera is mounted onto a drone to send real-time video down to the ground using a video transmitter. The FPV camera allows seeing where the drone is flying and what it is seeing as if it had its own eyes.

How drone’s photography can help in retail?
  • Street Photography
  • Fashion forecasting
  • Real-time photo shoot from fashion city
  • Branding & promotion
  • Fashion photography in back stage
  • Photography and videography in fashion walk

Facial Recognition Software for Drones

Face-Six, a global face recognition vendor specializing in cutting-edge facial recognition software, has announced the release of the FA6Drone. The FA6Drone is a face recognition software solution designed to recognize people from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also referred to as drones. (Face six, n.d.)
Figure-4: The facial recognition process.

The FFA6Drone software allows drones to identify people from any range, provided that faces are of decent quality, and have a minimal size. (Greenshpan, June, 2018)

Walmart patent application that would use facial recognition to try to identify varying levels of customer dissatisfaction. Facial recognition may lead to identifying customer attitude towards the product whether he/she may satisfy or not.

These types of technology prove that the retailers are keen to apply the facial recognition technology in drones. Where drone will buzz around to identify you properly, to know your details or buying attitude. A drone will then help to find your exact product what you are actually looking for, from your past history of buying by data analysis technology.

Walmart filed a patent in 2012 that, describes a system that uses facial recognition to detect customer dissatisfaction and adjust staffing accordingly. (Anderson, 2017)

The system uses video cameras at store checkout lanes. If the cameras detect an unhappy customer, the system notifies employees in other parts of the store to come to the checkout in the hopes of resolving any issue. The idea is that store employees will be able to more proactively respond to customer service issues, perhaps before the customer even complains.

The systems have the potential to make it more convenient for customers to check out and also could provide retailers with a wealth of data about their customers.

So, how face detection technology in drones helps retailer?
  • To identify customer satisfaction/ dissatisfaction level
  • Assisting as a salesperson to find the desired product inside the store
  • Self-check-out in anywhere in store by showing a smiley face 

The areas where drones can serve in the retail industry

1. Store (As a customer service)
2. Fashion photography
  • o Street Photography
  • o Fashion forecasting
  • o Real-time photo shoot from fashion city
  • o Branding & promotion
  • o Fashion photography in back stage
  • o Photography and videography in fashion walk
3. Inventory management facilities
4. Retail reselection and facility planning
5. Merchandise delivery
6. Motion tracking of customer
7. Mall traffic, why on this floor?
  • Mall traffic capture rate
  • Path analysis trajectory
  • Activity-based costing
  • People counting
  • Buying behavior/pattern
8. Customer service (Walmart patented)
9. Facial recognition
  • To identify customer satisfaction/ dissatisfaction level
  • Assisting as a salesperson to find the desired product inside the store
  • Self-check-out in anywhere in store by showing the smiley face 

Application of drones in the fashion world

Let’s have a look currently where drones are using in the fashion world. Drones can enhance a label’s branding, like by capturing imagery of a runway show, for directional shopping, drones can be used to take pictures of fashion trendy people from all over the world mostly in the fashion city like, New York, Paris UK, Milan, Tokyo.

Dolce & Gabbana show, a fleet of buzzing drones carrying pricey handbags flew down the runway.

Fig-5: Drones carry bags from Dolce & Gabbana's
Autumn/Winter 2018 women's collection
 at Milan Fashion Week
Fig-6: A drone carries a Betabrand space jacket
in a test ahead of Silicon Valley Fashion Week
Backstage during a photo session: There have been many companies established which offer photo and video services with drones.

Fashion show: In an industry first, Italian fashion house Fendi will live stream its autumn/winter 2014 fashion show through a flying "Drone Cam", swooping over models' heads as they walk down the runway. The Flying Catwalk: a project by Fendi and Google. (Video link)
Figure 7: The Flying Catwalk: a project by Fendi and Google
Merchandise delivery: Companies like Amazon or DHL have been testing drones to transport goods for some time now. It is true that the more advanced a drone is, the more expensive and riskier the whole play is (it also refers to the content of the parcel itself), but using drones themselves is practically free of charge. I would happily collect the parcel for instance from e.g. American Apparel. Commercial drones also become increasingly common in the US, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects that more than 2.5m drones will be shipped for commercial use in 2017. Companies such as Amazon, Walmart & Google have been investing in their drone’s delivery programs in the US and Europe, while drones’ startups raised over $450m in funding 2016.

Drones as a customer service: Walmart has filed a patent for drones to help shoppers in its stores. If the user has requested navigation assistance to an item selected from a virtual shopping list on the mobile electronic device, the computing device can control the aerial drone to provide navigation assistance to guide the user to the location of the selected item (mobile phone or a tablet that’s provided by the store). (Hyken, 2017). Walmart patent in drones at store US20170076354A1.

1. (2018, may 22). Retrieved from CNBC:
2. Advanced Realtime Tracking. (n.d.). Retrieved from
3. Alexandre Amoukteh, J. J. (2017, april 10). Drones go to work. Retrieved from
4. Anderson, G. (2017, July 27). Walmart's Facial Recognition Tech Would Overstep Boundaries. Retrieved from Forbes:
5. Ascending Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved from
6. Face six. (n.d.). Retrieved from
7. Greenshpan, M. (June, 2018). Face recognition on drones: an insider’s view. From Sci-Fi to Wi-Fi.
8. Hyken, S. (2017, June 17). Walmart To Use Drones In Stores To Provide Better Customer Service. Retrieved from Forbes:
9. Matternet. (n.d.). Retrieved from
10. Wikipedia. (2018). Retrieved from

Priyabrata Mondal is a graduate in apparel production. Currently, he is pursuing his master degree in Fashion Technology at NIFT, New Delhi. His interest is in the apparel supply chain.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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