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The panel at the Property Council WA Industrial Lunch discusses the changing nature of deliveries and associated logistics.

Drone delivery poses new challenges for WA industrial players

The idea of using horse trails as drone corridors to deliver online orders might have seemed laughable five years ago but a panel of industrial property experts last week acknowledged drone delivery was closer to becoming a reality.

CBRE Asia Pacific Head of Supply Chain Christine Miller told a Property Council WA Industrial Lunch shopping trends are reshaping logistics, how goods are delivered and the size and sites of industrial property.

Ms Miller said Australians did not just shop, they conducted product research, compared products and bought and returned products online – and about a third of the delivery cost for retailers was in the “last mile”.

“When we look at where we are in terms of omni-channel sales within Australia, we currently sit at just north of $27 billion,” Ms Miller said, adding that this will grow to $46 billion in the next three or four years.  She cautioned that few US retailers delivered goods profitably. 

In a later panel discussion moderated by Hero Properties Chief Executive Julie Drago, Ms Miller was joined by Development WA Industrial Land Authority’s Andrew Williams, PwC’s Director Infrastructure and Urban Renewal Craig Shepherd and Linc Properties Director Ben Lisle.

There was a case for “common infrastructure in that last mile”, Ms Miller said, but couriers such as TNT, Australia Post, Startrek and DHL were not ready for this.

Amazon was testing a truck and drone delivery system, where a truck would go to one suburb, park, send drones out to deliver and then move to the next neighbourhood.

Mr Shepherd said the planning system would need to be flexible enough to cope with drone delivery.

“(Using) a horse trail as a drone corridor seemed laughable five years ago,” Mr Shepherd said.

Consumer demand for instant gratification raised the prospect of residential, retail and storage cohabiting on the same site, Mr Williams said.

Mr Lisle said high-rise and automation trends overseas would take time to reach Perth.

“They are large scale plays,” Mr Lisle said. “You need large volume to justify the upfront investment and it may be that by the time you really get that high-level automation … that drone technology, which sounds a bit far fetched … may not be that far away.”

- Property Council WA Executive Director Sandra Brewer

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