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Drones and 3D Technology: The Future is Now

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 07/18/2014 | 6:43 AM

Guest Post By Dr. Robert Gordon, faculty member at American Public University

You might think that drones and 3D printers are out of reach for transportation and logistics projects and programs, but it is time to reconsider. Self-navigating flying drones  are available for around $1,000 and 3D printers  for roughly $2,500. Technology is rapidly evolving and, if transportation and logistics professionals are not mindful of such trends, they will find themselves left behind.

Despite widespread concern by Americans, the government has already issued limited licenses for drone research as well as for commercial use. Although privacy may be an issue, most people are not opposed to having a drone deliver pizza on demand, and both Amazon.com and Domino’s Pizza have taken initial steps to make it a reality.    

Despite these concerns, the FAA has already granted two exemptions, one for Conoco Phillips and British Petroleum, to monitor drilling activities in Alaska and monitor pipelines, respectively. The movie industry is already using drones for movie shoots overseas as well as in the US and the FAA appears close to approving a general exemption for the movie industry in the US. Recently, Amazon has requested permission to continue testing delivery by drone concept under controlled conditions.

3D printers have caught the attention of the media because of concerns that the technology can be used to create plastic guns and create other potential security issues. Despite this hype, they have many more practical uses.  For example, imagine working on an oil tanker and a critical part fails. If the part is not in inventory, the part must be ordered and shipped for delivery at the next port. Rather than having this delay, one could just print up a new part and put it into operation without delay. Beyond the complex maritime logistics, NASA is considering putting a 3D printer on the International Space Station to build replacement parts on demand.

The largest technological transition of all time is under way. Although it is tempting to dismiss technological innovations in favor of effective processes already in place , a good leader, educator, or researcher needs to spend time thinking about how it might be possible to use new technology to advance the transportation and logistics profession.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is currently an associate professor with American Public University System in the Reverse Logistics Management program. He has four published books, three regarding project management and one regarding reverse logistics in addition to dozens of articles. Dr. Gordon curates a Reverse Logistics topic at http://www.scoop.it/t/reverse-logistics-by-robert-gordon2.



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About Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is program director of the Reverse Logistics department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has over twenty-five years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. He holds a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA. Dr. Gordon has spent more than 14 years teaching reverse logistics, transportation, project management, and human resources. He has published articles on reverse logistics; supply chain management; project management; human resources; education, and complexity. He has also published four books on Reverse Logistics Management; Complexity and Project Management; Virtual Project Management Organizations, and Successful Program Management..

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