After two years of development and testing, a commercial drone delivery operation has officially received the government go-ahead in the south of France. The General Directorate for Civil Aviation recently granted authorization to DPDgroup, the international express subsidiary of French postal service Le Groupe La Poste, to operate a weekly delivery service stretching between two depots in the Provence region.
Packages will be loaded onto a hexacopter in the town of Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Beaume, then autonomously flown about 15 km (9 miles) to a remotely-located group of tech start-ups near the town of Pourrières.
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Users will drop off and pick up parcels at outdoor terminals at either end of the route. Those parcels can weigh up to 3 kg (6.6 lb), and will be automatically attached to or taken from the undercarriage of the drone.
Developed by project partner Atechsys, the aircraft itself has a carbon fiber chassis, a maximum air speed of 30 km/h (19 mph) and a battery range of up to 20 km (12 miles) – this presumably means that it has to recharge at Pourrières, before returning to Saint-Maximin.
Along with a GPS-based navigation system, it also has a live-streaming onboard camera and a parachute, the latter of which will deploy to take it safely to the ground in the event of a malfunction.
The delivery drone can be seen in action, in the following video.