DHL Parcel has successfully concluded a three-month test of its third “parcelcopter” generation of delivery drones.
The trial run, part of a larger research and development (R&D) project, was conducted between January and March in Germany’s Bavarian community of Reit im Winkl.
Private customers in Reit im Winkl and up on the Winklmoosalm plateau were invited to test out the specially developed Packstations, dubbed the Parcelcopter Skyport. During the trial period, they could simply insert their shipments into the Skyport to initiate automated shipment and delivery. A total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were performed.
As part of the trial, the technically upgraded vehicle was able to carry heavier loads and delivered them to an alpine region notable for its geographical and meteorological challenges, says DHL.
The first task was to master the rapidly changing weather conditions and severe temperature fluctuation in the test area. The DHL parcelcopter performed a series of flights: Each round trip from valley to plateau at roughly 1,200 meters above sea level covered 8 kilometers of flight. The drone’s cargo was typically either sporting goods or urgently needed medicines, and it arrived at the Alm station within just eight minutes of take-off. The same trip by car takes more than 30 minutes during winter, says DHL.“We’re the first worldwide who are able to offer a transport drone – parcelcopter at DHL – for end-customer delivery,” says Jürgen Gerdes, management board member for post/e-commerce/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.”
In the coming months, DHL Parcel will be analyzing performance data and other insights from the trial with its R&D partner, the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Technischen Hochschule Aachen. The findings will be used to select other potential areas for testing.
According to DHL, the success of the project reflects a greater partnership with the community of Reit im Winkl and the relevant civil oversight agencies: The Federal Ministry for Transportation established a restricted flight zone specifically for this research project, and the aviation authority for the region of Upper Bavaria provided the necessary flight clearances. Together with officials from the community of Reit im Winkl, all details were worked out to ensure that the project could operate safely and uninterruptedly at all times, notes DHL.