The power of drone technology is not just capturing the imagination, it’s beginning to change the way we live and work. Drones are being employed to conduct crucial visual inspections of high-rise towers under construction, check bridge and highway infrastructure for dangerous structural decline, and assist with search and rescue missions. They are used to map agricultural land in order to improve crop health, and their entertainment and competitive possibilities are vast. But one area of particular promise calls for a closer look: drones have the potential to revolutionize the delivery of goods to remote areas, and eventually to cities and towns across the globe.

In fact, the drone delivery revolution has already begun.

Consider, for instance, the third-generation parcelcopter that DHL has created. After years of development, research and testing, DHL recently launched the world’s first drone-based “last mile” delivery system, using specially developed Parcelcopter Skyports, or package kiosks, to complete the fully automated process of loading and offloading shipments. During a three-month test of the drone delivery system in the Bavarian Alps on the German/Austrian border, private customers were able to place their packages into a skyport, where automated shipment via drone was initiated and ultimately completed. In total, 130 autonomous drone deliveries were performed. Cargo consisted mainly of urgently needed medicine, as well as sporting goods. The typical flight took eight minutes from valley to plateau; the same trip by car would take more than 30 minutes.

What does the parcelcopter tell us about the future of drone delivery? Given that the test occurred in a high-altitude region known for rapidly changing weather conditions and severe temperature fluctuations, the experience demonstrates the real advancements that are happening in drone technology. Technically-enhanced parcelcopters were able to carry heavier loads for longer distances, and these drones were able to deliver successfully in difficult and unpredictable environments.

In the future, delivery drones will reach not just remote locations, but urban and rural businesses and consumers around the globe, changing the very notion of how companies connect with their customers. In the age of e-commerce and on-demand delivery, drones are a game changer. As more businesses of all sizes look to reach new audiences on an international scale, the challenge of last-mile delivery is growing by the day, and drone technology offers a critical solution for fast and efficient order fulfillment.

Let’s take a look at the benefits. Delivering one small package to one individual location in a delivery van or truck takes a significant amount of time and energy; the same task completed by a drone saves both. For forward-looking companies and logistics leaders, the pursuit of green solutions is critical, and drones will be an increasingly large part of the sustainability strategy in the years ahead. Drones have no wasted cargo space, and they won’t get stuck in traffic. The automation of the pickup and delivery process itself also improves efficiency, a fact that will ultimately reduce costs and streamline the supply chain.

With drones in the air and in our future, how do you think your company will benefit? Let us know at @DHLUS.