VoloDrone, the cargo drone built by Volocopter, conducted its first flight in public in Hamburg, Germany, last week. The unmanned aerial vehicle can transport up to 200 kgs over a distance of 40 kms. During the test and in close collaboration with global logistics giant, DB Schenker, the mighty drone demonstrated its ability for seamless integration into logistics supply chains in the first and last mile.
Welcome to the city’s DronePort! It consists of a large square platform easily visible from an elevated spectator stand, erected within Hamburg’s harbor front, right on the shores of the Elbe
River. The installation is the first structure that pedestrians see on the southern side of the river after crossing the old tunnel built in 2011.
Next to the platform is a hangar, constructed to shelter unmanned aerial vehicles. In this case, the mighty VoloDrone measuring 12 m (length), 2.4 m (width), and 3.9 m (height). An impressive modern Pterosaur, only that the flying machine is more peaceful than its historical precursor. After some introductory remarks, ground staff maneuver the UAV to the center of the platform, followed by the arrival of a shipment roughly the size of a Euro pallet. The gullwing doors of the transport box mounted beneath the electronic control unit are unlocked, and the shipment is placed into the container. Doors closed, security check accomplished – thumbs up – and the VoloDrone takes to the air.
DB Schenker is shareholder of VoloCopter
It is propelled by 18 rotors which produce only a slight buzz once activated. No comparison to the noise of a helicopter passing by roughly 300 m away. The flight demonstration lasts no more than 5 minutes, but it proves, visually, that the VoloDrone can become an alternative to road transport once the manufacturer has received the approval for commercial flights from the European regulatory authority, EASA. This will take until about 2023 or even a year after, Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, indicated.
Senior managers from DB Schenker attended the air show. The logistics company has a financial stake in parent VoloCopter, but does not provide details. Schenker boss, Jochen Thewes sits on the supervisory board of the company, which is based in southwest Germany.
Tapping into the third dimension
“This first public VoloDrone flight is a testament to VoloCopter's leadership position in the Urban Air Mobility industry. We are the only UAM company developing solutions for passenger and freight transportation alike,” stated Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, after his VoloDrone had safely returned to the platform. The manager went on to say: “Our VoloDrone will make existing logistics processes more robust, efficient, and sustainable. DB Schenker is a valuable partner in realizing the enormous application potential of our transport drone in logistics.”
Reuter’s testimony was confirmed by Erik Wirsing, Vice President Global Innovation at DB Schenker: “As part of our roadmap for innovation and sustainability, we are tapping into the third dimension with the VoloDrone, accelerating supply chains and saving emissions. The flight demonstration in Hamburg showed once again that the UAM provider is the ideal partner for DB Schenker.”
Investing in ground infrastructure
The drone is electrically powered, capable of vertical taking off and landing. It is designed to accomplish missions in urban surroundings where conventional transport options, mainly road services, reach their limits. Parallel to testing the aerial vehicle further, parent VoloCopter enlarges its portfolio by pushing ahead with the ground and digital infrastructure needed to conduct regular flights to destinations beyond the visual line of sight within a defined network approved by regulators.
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