Using drones in the last-mile logistics processes of medical product delivery: A feasibility case study in Rotterdam

Irene Zubin, Bart van Arem, Bart Wiegmans, Ron van Duin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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The term last-mile delivery refers to the final leg of a business-to-customer service, in which products are shipped from a depot to a destination point by means of land transportation, such as vans and small trucks. Although these vehicles provide a common and easy way to consign products, companies are striving for new transport technologies to reduce congestion, infrastructure limita
tions and air pollution. An alternative to road-bounded vehicles that has recently gained attention is the adoption of drones in parcel delivery. Drone applications range from military training, surveillance, path recognition and shipment of perishable products in emergency situations. Research on drones as delivery vehicles is still in its early stages, with some practical trials carried out by leader companies such as Google and Amazon. However, the application of drones in the pharmaceutical sector for home deliveries of medical products, has not been investigated yet. To gain new insights into the feasibility of introducing drones in the delivery fleet, drone applications were studied for the delivery operations of the pharmacy BENU ’t Slag, in Rotterdam. Two scenario alternatives were tested using the Vehicle Routing Problem formulation. A Large-scale Neighborhood Search lgorithm was implemented to solve the problem and derive the performance indicators associated with each scenario. Performances were then analyzed through a comparative analysis. When drones were introduced in the delivery fleet, indicators showed improvements in environmental aspects, service time and delivery costs, with a reduction of 9% in CO2 emissions, 12% in service
time and 5.6% in cost per item.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 99th Annual Meeting TRB
PublisherTransportation Research Board (TRB)
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventTransportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting - Washington, D.C., United States
Duration: 12 Jan 202016 Jan 2020


ConferenceTransportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWashington, D.C.


  • Drones
  • medical products
  • Last-mile delivery
  • Large-scale Neighborhood Search


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