When we think of the future of automated deliveries our minds tend to wander toward airborne drones, but ground-based robots may play an important part in this, too. Among those is a new mail-toting machine roaming the streets in Germany, which DHL hopes will come to offer postal workers a helping hand by doing much the heavy lifting en route.
The venture was announced earlier in the month together with the mayor of Bad Hersfeld –the town in central Germany that will play host to DHL's electric PostBOTs over the course of a pilot project lasting six weeks.
Standing 150 cm tall (just under 5 ft), the PostBOT scurries along at up to 6 km/h (3.7 mph) and can hold up to 150 kg (330 lb) worth of mail. A sensor array helps the robot navigate obstacles as it rolls around town, as well as track the legs of the human mail carrier so it can safely follow them along the route. DHL points out that as well lightening the load for mail carriers, the PostBOT also frees up their hands to make it easier to distribute the mail.
The company hasn't been afraid to experiment with new technologies as it looks to smarten up its delivery methods for the future. It has been working on a delivery drone called the Parcelcopter, which underwent testing recently in Germany. And earlier this month, it also revealed it is developing its own fleet of autonomous delivery vehicles.
"We're constantly working on new solutions to allow our employees to handle this physically challenging work even as they continue to age," says Jürgen Gerdes, CEO of the Post - eCommerce - Parcel division at Deutsche Post DHL Group. "We are already using a variety of tools in this regard, including e-Bikes and e-Trikes for postal deliveries, and are now also looking at innovative robot applications. This current test is expected to deliver important insights into how we can further develop the delivery process for our employees."