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The Possible Impact of 3D Printing and Drones on Last-Mile Logistics: An Exploratory Study

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3D printing and drones may have the potential to transform the movement of freight in urban areas, particularly on the so-called 'last mile' to the home. This paper reviews available evidence on the likely scalability of these innovations in a city logistics context and assesses their possible impact on urban traffic levels. The research is essentially exploratory as the application of these innovations to urban logistics is at a very early stage. The evidence comes mainly from published sources, supplemented by discussions with a mixed group of researchers and practitioners. It suggests that both innovations would have the potential to transform city logistics if their adoption rates were high. The rapid growth of online retailing is conducive to a high level of uptake. There are, however, good reasons for believing that their application will remain limited, at least in the short to medium term. Their diffusion will be constrained by several factors including a lack of scale economies, limited value-add and regulation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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