DHL Integrates Parcelcopter Services into its Supply Chain

Good news for the dwellers of Winkelmoosalm and Reit im Winkel. People living in these communities with their unpronounceable Bavarian names could get their e-commerce packages which they order online at Amazon or any other retailer in future by DHL’s Parcelcopter. Mail giant Deutsche Post’s express unit has just successfully concluded a test series of autonomous flights in the challenging mountainous region of southern Germany.

The Parcelcopter: DP/DHL’s future aerial courier  -  courtesy DP/DHL
The Parcelcopter: DP/DHL’s future aerial courier - courtesy DP/DHL

Trials at Packstations went well
The trials were conducted between January and March in the Bavarian community of Reit im Winkel, close to the German – Austrian border. They are part of a larger research and innovation project by DP/DHL aimed at automating delivery services wherever technically and operationally possible. The test series is the first time worldwide that a parcel delivery service has directly integrated a parcelcopter logistically into its delivery chain. To gain experience and test the efficiency of the unmanned copter under everyday conditions, local private customers living in the region 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 per Parcelcopter. This way, a total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were ultimately performed.

Weather conditions play an important role
One of the crucial tasks for the copter was to master the rapidly changing weather conditions and severe temperature fluctuation in the test area. With that achieved, the DHL Parcelcopter then performed a series of flawless flights. Each round trip from valley to plateau at roughly 1,200 meters above sea level covering eight kilometers of flight. The drone's cargo was typically either sporting goods or urgently needed medicines and it arrived at the Alpine station within just eight minutes after take-off. The same trip by car takes more than 30 minutes during winter.
Next, DHL will analyze the performance data and other findings in close cooperation with Rheinisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule (RWTH), a specialized research institute in the city of Aachen. The results will be used to launch further tests in different areas to gain additional experience concerning the intended integration of their Parcelcopter into DHL’s service portfolio.
Juergen Gerdes, Management Board Member for Post – e-Commerce – at DP/DHL comments: “We're the first worldwide who are able to offer a transport drone – Parcelcopter at DHL – for end-customer delivery. 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.”
It seems the Parcelcopter’s career has only begun.

Heiner Siegmund

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