Can engineers help save the planet? 3 engineering solutions reducing emissions in the distribution sector

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Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge our world has ever faced. According to the IPCC, immediate and deep emission reductions are needed across all sectors to limit global warming.

The scale of the challenges facing our planet can seem daunting, but could new advances in zero carbon electronic robots/ delivery solutions be one of the keys to building a sustainable future?

Keep reading to discover a few of the most cutting-edge engineering solutions for reducing harmful emissions in the distribution industry.

Automated robots

Starship automated robots are advanced autonomous devices that can carry items over short distances. Running in Milton Keynes since April 2018, they have partnered with retail giants, Tesco and Coop to provide local last-mile delivery. Their electronically powered delivery robots are powered by zero-carbon electricity and can travel nearly an entire day on a single charge.

Recent research by Starship revealed that 450,000 car trips have been avoided since the company began commercial deliveries in 2018. The robots have also helped avoid 55kg (121 pounds) of microparticles, which are known to negatively affect air quality and made it possible to avoid 33kg of nitrogen oxides; a substance that is likely to increase respiratory issues.

These robots have formed an important component of Milton Keynes’ aim to be carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050.

Starship, who is already operating its robots in Milton Keynes, Northampton, and Cambourne, is now expanding internationally. These small but very efficient robots could revolutionise the future of local delivery, whilst reducing emissions that cause harm to our planet.

Delivery drones

Amazon announced in June 2022, that later this year, their customers in Lockeford, California, will be among the first to receive Prime Air drone deliveries in the U.S. Their teams of hundreds of scientists, engineers, and aerospace professionals, have been working for nearly a decade now to make their delivery drones a reality.

Prime Air has developed an advanced sense-and-avoid system that will allow the drones to function without the need for visible observers. Their algorithms employ a wide range of technologies to detect both static and moving objects on the horizon that even the human eye would struggle to detect. If faced with an obstacle, the drones will automatically change the course of their path; allowing them to travel further afield.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the trial of this advanced technology in Lockeford can minimise dangerous vehicle emissions going forward.

Self-driving electric vehicles

We’ve seen the debut and success of automated robot delivery; now, Udelv is taking it to the next level, introducing its self-driving electric delivery vehicle, the Transporter, at this year’s CES.

Hailed as the ‘world’s first autonomous delivery vehicle’, this purpose-built zero-emission vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 70mph on highways and carry 2,000 pounds of weight for up to 80 stops each run. As a self-driving, autonomous vehicle, it is able to better manage energy consumption due to smoother driving behaviours and software-driven route optimisation. The removal of a cabin, steering, pedals, and passengers also boosts the vehicle’s volumetric and energy efficiency.

Winning a contract with the US Air Force last year, these vehicles will help boost flight line readiness by shortening the turnaround time of vital equipment to and from maintenance tool rooms and back shop areas.

Udelv hopes to have 50,000 Transporters on the road by 2028, with the first Transporters going live in 2023, and 1,000 vehicles already reserved. A self-driving vehicle already storming the market is Nuro’s on-road fleet.

Their zero-emission, fully electric vehicles currently provide environmentally friendly deliveries in Texas, Arizona, and California, with 3 different types of self-driving vehicles already on the market. They can carry weights of up to 500 pounds and complete a full day of operation from just a single charge.

Their most recent third-generation vehicle uses an HVAC system, with separate inserts to keep food cool or hot. Allowing Nuro to partner with giant food chains like Dominos and Walmart. They were also the first to engineer an external airbag and collapsible front end, to reduce injuries in the event of a collision.

Not that a collision is likely given that their vehicles have a 360-degree view of their surroundings and can detect any obstacles on their route thanks to their cameras, radars, lidars, and thermal cameras. Their sensors are also built to clean themselves throughout the day to retain sensitivity and their AV stack combines engineered and machine-learned components for robustness.

To top it all off, their vehicles and facilities are powered with 100% renewable electricity generated by wind farms in Texas. An all-around exciting engineering solution for the distribution sector, that is reducing harmful emissions and lowering Nuro’s overall carbon footprint.

At Linnk Engineering, we specialise in empowering organisations and engineering experts through our outsourcing solutions. Specialising in global automatic and robotic solutions within logistics. Connect with us to find out how we can support your organisation or find you your perfect engineering role.