2020 seems to be the time for delivery drones. Similar to the air taxi, prototypes and project ideas have been circulating for years. The practical implementation was a long time coming, not least because of the requirements for air traffic that differ from country to country. The corona crisis apparently provided the final impetus to finally get the contactless and energy-saving type of parcel delivery on the way.
Delivery drones in the corona crisis
In July 2020, the World Economic Forum even proclaimed the “golden age of drone delivery”. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a rethink in society, writes Harrison Wolf, the organization’s “Aerospace and Drones” project manager. The public awareness of the benefits of small flying robots is increasingly outweighing their potential dangers. Drones have turned from ultra-modern technology into a useful tool that can also help save lives.
Start-ups, including from Germany, are cooperating with global logisticians. But also Google parent company Alphabet and some online retailers want to help shape the next level of goods delivery.
These companies rely on delivery drones
Delivery drone at the Charité
In times of the Corona, interest in contactless and particularly fast delivery grows, for example when it comes to blood samples or vaccines. The first official tests have been running in Berlin since November 17, 2020. Labor Berlin, which it claims to be the largest hospital laboratory in Europe, is cooperating with the Californian drone manufacturer Matternet. “The use of drones is intended to significantly shorten the transport time for particularly time-critical samples between individual clinic locations and the central laboratory of Labor Berlin, the first joint venture between Charité and Vivantes,” announced the German company. The project, which has been in preparation for a long time, marks a milestone. This will create the basis for the first inner-city BVLOS network (Beyond Visual Line of Sight – outside the pilot’s view) for the delivery of medical materials in the European Union, announced Matternet. Continuous operation of the Berlin drone network is planned for 2021.
Amazon Prime Air
Amazon presented the first delivery drone in 2013. Then little happened for a long time. But now there is movement in future technology. At the end of August 2020, the online retailer received the green light from the US aviation authority FAA for parcel delivery by flying robots. However, Amazon does not yet want to determine when Prime Air could become a normal delivery option. When it comes to logistics from the air, the group does not only focus on its home business. Additional drone development centers are located in the UK, Austria, France and Israel. With Prime Air, parcels weighing just under 2.5 kilograms should be delivered in a maximum of 30 minutes.
In other parts of the world, drone deliveries are already a reality. “DHL Express starts drone delivery service in China,” announced the group on May 16, 2019 on the occasion of the maiden flight in Guangzhou. “From now on, shipments will be transported daily between the DHL service center in Liaobu, Dongguan, in the province of Guangdong and a customer’s location eight kilometers away. DHL is thus the first international express company to offer such a service in China, ”the press release said. DHL Express has teamed up with the drone manufacturer Ehang and carefully selected the region. The coastal province of Guangdong borders Hong Kong and Macau. Many start-ups and SMEs are settling here, as Wu Dongming, CEO of DHL Express China, explained: “The need for logistics in this area is increasing rapidly. This offers new opportunities to implement innovative solutions that can drive growth in more sustainable, efficient and cost-effective ways. ”New routes and more powerful drones are in the pipeline.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, UPS was transporting medical samples by drone. In March 2019, the logistics company announced a pilot project on the campus of the WakeMed hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. Medical samples should be delivered there by drone. It was the first FAA approval for commercial deliveries of this kind, as announced by UPS. As in Berlin, Matternet drones were in use here. But flight technology from Germany is also in demand.
UPS ‘drone division UPS Flight Forward teamed up with German drone manufacturer Wingcopter in spring 2020. The group announced that the next generation of delivery drones for parcel delivery will be developed together. The focus is on a large number of different aircraft that are supposed to meet the various demands of customers. “The strategic partnership with UPS will strengthen our role as the industry leader in drone technology,” said Tom Plümmer, CEO and co-founder of Wingcopter. The company’s aircraft have a range of up to 120 kilometers and hold the Guinness world record with a top speed of 240 km / h. Even strong winds of up to 72 km / h should not throw the autonomously flying drones off course. According to the company, Wingcopter drones have already delivered corona tests in Scotland and could replace the internal transport of samples by car at the pharmaceutical company Merck.
Google’s parent company Alphabet is also active in the drone business with its subsidiary Wing. The company claims to have made the world’s first commercial drone deliveries to consumers on three continents. Wing was said to be the first drone operator in the US to be certified as an air carrier in 2019. Wing drones have so far landed in the USA, Australia and Finland. You should be able to deliver parcels from the local pharmacy or your favorite café within a few minutes.