Drones

DHL uses completely autonomous system to deliver consumer goods by drone

DHL uses completely autonomous...
The drone leaving the Packstation, or "Parcelcopter Skyport"
The drone leaving the Packstation, or "Parcelcopter Skyport"
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When a package is inserted into the Packstation, the roof opens to allow the drone a speedy exit
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When a package is inserted into the Packstation, the roof opens to allow the drone a speedy exit

The drone leaving the Packstation, or "Parcelcopter Skyport"
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The drone leaving the Packstation, or "Parcelcopter Skyport"
The drone can fly both like a helicopter and a plane thanks to wings that pivot
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The drone can fly both like a helicopter and a plane thanks to wings that pivot
The Parcelcopter en route
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The Parcelcopter en route

When you think of delivery by drone of consumer goods, chances are you'll think of Amazon. But it's not the only one working on flying packages to people's front doors via unmanned aerial vehicles. Delivery company DHL is also making steady strides in this arena, first with a drone that could fly blood samples across a river, then with a medication-delivery drone and now with the third generation of its "Parcelcopter," which does in eight minutes what it would take a standard mail-delivery vehicle a half hour to complete.

The latest Parcelcopter was tested this year from January to March, flying packages from the German community of Reit im Winkl to a plateau located about 1,200 meters above sea level. The system was tested out using real members of the community who brought their packages to what DHL calls a "Packstation" or "Parcelcopter Skyport." The special facility is like a small post office with a small helipad on top of it. When a package is inserted, a Parcelcopter swoops into action, grabbing hold of it. Then, the roof of the skyport opens and the drone zips off to deliver the goods to their destination. The entire system works automatically, without human intervention.

In case you've never been to Reit im Winkl before, it apparently has some pretty dramatic and rapidly-changing weather conditions, so the folks at DHL beefed up their Parcelcopter to handle the environmental challenges. Similar Amazon's proposed Prime Air delivery drone, DHL's flyer has the ability to rise vertically like a helicopter and then convert to zip forward like an airplane. It can fly at 70 km/h (about 43 mph) carrying a parcel weighing up to 2.2 kg (4.4 lb) for 8.3 km (just over five miles). That's almost double the speed of its previous Parcelcopter, that topped out at 43 km/h (about 27 mph).

The drone can fly both like a helicopter and a plane thanks to wings that pivot
The drone can fly both like a helicopter and a plane thanks to wings that pivot

DHL says the trip from base to mountain plateau took only eight minutes and was repeated for 130 deliveries during the testing period. A car making the same journey by road would take 30 minutes.

The next step, the company says, is to analyze the data from its tests and look for other areas where it might be able to build other Packstations to help spread the autonomous delivery system – perhaps even in urban areas as opposed to relatively sparsely populated mountain towns.

While drone delivery is already becoming a bit ho-hum in the news, this video of the Parcelcopter in action might make you rethink just how impressive the system is.

Source: DHL

Making deliveries with the DHL Parcelcopter 3.0

8 comments
RobertFletcher
Most of the drones I have seen in articles on drone delivery have exposed propellers. This seems very dangerous. I cant see regulators letting this kind of drone fly around suburbs.
TimothyRichburg
I know this is just a prototype and I love the concept but the packing, launching and retrieval is overly complicated to be profitable. I’m sure it would be cheaper to hand pack and use an existing superstructure that is re-purposed e.g. aircraft hangar. Leave the door open, fly out one side and return through the other side.
Mel Tisdale
This will be o.k. for non-urgent delivery. It is too vulnerable to inclement weather (gale force winds, icing etc.) for serious work where delayed or non-delivery is possible (think bird-strike or some child with an air rifle using it for target practice).
Bob Flint
Great technically it can be done, but at what cost is it to save 22 minutes under ideal conditions only? Meanwhile the car method will work under almost any climactic circumstances and much larger payloads, for a lot less....
Robert Walther
Interesting. There should be only one roof assembly that (maybe) slides open; and the rotation of the drone before takeoff is very sci-fi cool but adds an unnecessary complexity.
habakak
Drone delivery will only be used where it's more cost-effective or more efficient than regular deliveries. It surely can't beat a truck filled with 100 items in a downtown or even suburban area. This will supplement existing mainstream delivery methods, not replace it. Sending a drone up a mountain is much faster and less treacherous than a truck for one or a few small deliveries. Or crossing water in rural areas. So much potential ways it can be better. But not for bulk or the majority of deliveries in the majority of areas.
Wombat56
I think this is just the sort of application where drone delivery does make sense, namely for small packages in rural and semi-rural areas. Consider the energy savings compared with driving a 1 ton truck up and then down a mountain, or putting the parcel onto a boat for a river or lake crossing. Then there's the security aspect in some places like Africa, Pakistan etc where if the courier manages to navigate the terrible roads, there's also the danger of being hijacked or killed along the way.
oldguy
Okay, so one day soon, we will have our packages delivered by drone. Trucks will drive themselves. Cars will drive themselves. Factories will be automated. Computers will program themselves. I see a whole lot of people without jobs, drivers, factory workers, traffic cops, electricians, programmers etc. Question.... If we are all underemployed, wheres all the money gonna come from for us to buy anything, go anywhere ? Just interested.