Drones

DHL launches delivery-by-drone pilot project in Germany

DHL launches delivery-by-drone...
DHL's Parcelcopter can carry up to 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) of medication
DHL's Parcelcopter can carry up to 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) of medication
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DHL's Parcelcopter can carry up to 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) of medication
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DHL's Parcelcopter can carry up to 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) of medication
It will cruise at an altitude of 50 meters (164 ft) and speeds of up to 18 meters (59 ft) per second, depending on wind speeds
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It will cruise at an altitude of 50 meters (164 ft) and speeds of up to 18 meters (59 ft) per second, depending on wind speeds

Although big players such as Amazon, Google and the United Arab Emirates have all announced plans to launch drone-based delivery services, it looks like DHL Parcel is about to beat them to it. This week, the courier company announced that it will begin using its unmanned DHL Parcelcopter to deliver pharmaceuticals from the German seaside village of Norddeich, across 12 km (7.5 miles) of the North Sea, to the small island of Juist.

Taking place on days when the regular ferry or manned flights aren't available, the delivery flights will occur at least once a week.

The Parcelcopter (or Paketkopter, if you want to go with its German name) will take off, fly and land autonomously, beyond the line of sight of its mobile ground station in Norddeich. That said, people at that station will continuously monitor its flights in real time via a long-range data link, and will be in constant contact with regional air traffic controllers.

It will cruise at an altitude of 50 meters (164 ft) and speeds of up to 18 meters (59 ft) per second, depending on wind speeds.

Upon reaching Juist, the copter will set down at a designated landing pad. There, a local DHL ground crew will retrieve the medications from its weatherproof carbon fiber cargo compartment, then deliver them to residents or tourists in person – so no, it won't be flying down town streets, landing at peoples' doorsteps. For the time being, it will also stick to only delivering high-priority pharmaceuticals, as opposed to other types of packages.

It will cruise at an altitude of 50 meters (164 ft) and speeds of up to 18 meters (59 ft) per second, depending on wind speeds
It will cruise at an altitude of 50 meters (164 ft) and speeds of up to 18 meters (59 ft) per second, depending on wind speeds

Built by project co-partner Microdrones GmbH (the other partner is The Institute for Flight System Dynamics at RWTH Aachen University), the electric quadcopter itself weighs under 5 kg (11 lb), can carry a payload of up to 1.2 kg (2.6 lb), and can remain in flight for up to 45 minutes or at least 12 km. This presumably means that it will require a battery swap or recharge on Juist before heading back to the mainland.

Along with its data link, it's also equipped with "advanced sensor technology," and it can be remotely operated from its base station in the event that something goes wrong with its autopilot. Its flights will be confined to a restricted airspace, set aside by the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

The flights will continue for several weeks, after which the long-term feasibility of the system will be assessed.

You can see one of its trial delivery runs, in the German-language video below.

Source: DHL via The Guardian

DHL Paketkopter startet zu Forschungszwecken ersten Linienbetrieb

8 comments
martinkopplow
Well, yes, and as we can already see quite clearly, formerly free airspace is becoming a quasi property of delivery companies once we use this tech. I first learned about this a few weeks ago, when I got the NOTAM adressig the airspace restriction, because I use to fly in the area. The airspace actually assigned to the trials is rather low, but it is only the beginning. Once it picks up, this delivery drone business is going to annoy me big time, for sure.
Mel Tisdale
I rather suspect that this system, and those of a similar ilk, will fall foul of GPS jamming and possibly spoofing. Just look at how many computer viruses are being developed for the purposes of financial gain. There is no reason for these criminals to restrict themselves to the internet.
DKB132
There may be something wrong with my math but somethings doesn't seem to be adding up. If the drone flies at 59 feet per second, that's about 40 MPH and if it "can remain in flight for up to 45 minutes", I calculate it should be able to to travel the 12 km or 7.5 miles in about 11 minutes. So why is it that it will only remain in flight for "least 12 km"? If it can fly for 45 minutes it should be able to make three many four trips across the water in 45 minutes at 40 MPH. What have I missed here?
John Hagen-Brenner
Want a free drone? Order a pair of socks and be ready with your net.
Pat Pending
"It will cruise at an altitude of 50 meters (164 ft) and speeds of up to 18 meters (59 ft) per second, depending on wind speeds." Actually it's airspeed will be up to 18m/s (roughly 35 knots, fast little thing) it's ground speed will depend on the wind speed and direction. I would confidently predict the drone delivery bushiness will be worth billions in the near future. Why aren't we developing them in the UK? To answer martinkopplow above; I suspect the FAA, CAA et al will adapt the aviation regulations to accommodate drones in a safe and practical manner. My guess would be drones will be limited to flight below 500 feet and clear of all restricted airspace around airfields. Space that is already prohibited for use by any aircraft unless landing or taking off. Nobody will be inconvenienced and everybody will benefit when drone delivery becomes the norm.
Lbrewer42
I can see the many greedy people slobbering over this one: Let's see to get a slice of the pie: 1. We need to add insurance in case the drone fails. 2. We need to make sure the parcel company installs trackers inside each package in case the package might accidentally be lost by the drone. 3. We need to charge more for insurance for delivering pharmaceuticals b/c of the risk of the package getting lost and drugs being in the hands of the (drug dealer) person who finds (sabotages the software) them. 4. We need to charge more to cover the costs of idiots who will seek to become overnight millionaires by suing (the drone-owner, the drone manufacturing company, and anyone else they can tack onto the list), for shipping pharmaceuticals through an unmanned device, losing the package, and their kid was stupid enough to use the drugs to get high. ...so many more avenues could be tapped. Great tech idea - just a shame that this type of thing will likely have a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome if put into use in the US.
martinkopplow
@Pat Pending "I suspect the FAA, CAA et al will adapt the aviation regulations to accommodate drones in a safe and practical manner. " Yes, sure they will. Look at Austria right now: They just did such practical reorganization, and as a consequence their lower airspace became parctically unusable for general aviation, and everybody still willing to fly has to invest heavily in new avoidance equipment required. Instead of developing the drones so that they do not harm anybody, they just keep everybody out of the dumb drones way!
Pat Pending
@martinkopplow By "... invest heavily in new avoidance equipment..." I assume you are referring to ADS-B? ADS-B will allow the "dumb drones" to avoid the moronic faction of GA pilots who think it's their God given right to stodge around any airspace with total disregard to the safety of others. The sooner it's mandatory the better. And before you say it they are now less than $1400