While Amazon is busy testing out its Amazon Air drone delivery system, DHL Parcel has just successfully completed a three-month test of its Parcelcopter 3.0 UAV.
The DHL trial, conducted between January and March 2016, saw residents of the Bavarian town of Reit im Winkl and the nearby Winklmoosalm plateau send and receive packages via specially-developed robotic Packstations, dubbed Skyports.
“[Customers] could simply insert their shipments into the Skyport to initiate automated shipment and delivery [by] Parcelcopter,” explained DHL. “A total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were ultimately performed.”
Making the 8km trip between Reit im Winkl and the Winklmoosalm plateau typically takes more than 30 minutes by car. Using DHL’s Parcelcopter 3.0 drone, the journey could be completed in just 8 minutes — over three times faster.
As far as drone delivery is concerned, it’s a stunning proof of concept.
“We’re the first worldwide who are able to offer a transport drone – Parcelcopter at DHL – for end-customer delivery,” said Jürgen Gerdes, Management Board Member for Post – eCommerce – Parcel at Deutsche Post DHL Group.
“With this combination of fully automated loading and unloading as well as an increased transport load and range of our Parcelcopter we have achieved a level of technical and procedural maturity to eventually allow for field trials in urban areas as well.”
The trial used DHL’s third generation Parcelcopter drone, an autonomous tiltwing design that’s capable of flying at speeds of 70km/h (43 mph) carrying a payload of up to 2Kg. It’s a significant improvement over the previous Parcelcopter 2.0 — a quadcopter capable of flying at 40km/h (25 mph) with a cargo weighing up to 1.2Kg.
At this stage, the DHL Parcelcopter and the clever automated Skyports are designed as a tool for delivering packages in hard to reach areas. But the ultimate aim for companies like Amazon, DHL and UPS is to provide a same-day drone delivery service in towns and cities.
Imagine then, 10 years from now, instead of carrying your parcel to the post office, you’ll be able to leave it in your back garden and order a drone to pick it up. It’s an autonomous future that will see self-driving trucks and vans on our roads and perhaps even Starship Technologies delivery robots trundling along our pavements.
The technology already works. We’re just waiting for the laws of the land to allow it.