Google Could Lose the Drone Delivery Battle in Favor of DHL

DHL's autnomous drone 1 photo
Photo: DHL
The future is clearly a world where drones will bring small goods straight to your door, but the big question is who’s the first at it. While Google and Amazon have been testing their own UAVs, it would seem there is already somebody winning that competition, as German logistics company DHL is about to launch Europe’s first drone delivery service.
DHL just announced that they will soon launch a unique pilot project on the North Sea island of Juist, through which, for the first time worldwide, medications and other urgently needed goods will be delivered to the island at certain times of the day by the company’s parcelcopter.

According to their press release, the research project represents the first and only time in Europe that a flight by an unmanned aircraft will be operated outside of the pilot’s field of vision in a real-life mission. This is yet another step in the company’s parcelocpter research launched in December last year.

The project has been approved by the German government, as the Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has established a restricted flight area exclusively for this research project. In addition to the island of Juist and the city of Norden, the Wattenmeer national park administrative unit approved the parcelcopter flights.

"Our DHL parcelcopter 2.0 is already one of the safest and most reliable flight systems in its class that meets the requirements needed to fulfill such a mission," said Jürgen Gerdes, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL's Post - eCommerce - Parcel Division. "We are proud that this additional service can create added value for the residents of and visitors to the island of Juist and are pleased with the support we have received from the involved communities and agencies."

An autonomous delivery drone ready for the future

DHL claims the technical innovations of the drone include extended flight duration and range. Apart from its ability to operate reliably, safely and to always land at the right location, the UAV is an autonomous aircraft, which means there is no need for a pilot to take any action at all during any phase of the flight.

At an altitude of 50 meters, the parcelcopter can travel up to 18 meters per second depending on wind speed. It will primarily transport medications from the mainland to the island of Juist at certain times during the week and weekends.

DHL also says that there are no specific plans to use the drone in normal parcel delivery operations yet. To the extent that it is technically feasible and economically sensible, they did, however, specify that “the use of parcelcopters to deliver urgently needed goods to thinly populated or remote areas or in emergencies is an interesting option for the future.”

In other words, Google and Amazon, watch out, competition is calling!

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