DHL conducts successful integration of UAS into logistics chain

By Patrick C. Miller | May 12, 2016

International postal and logistics company DHL has successfully concluded a three-month test of its third-generation Parcelcopter as part of a larger research and innovation project.

The trial run was conducted between January and March this year in the Bavarian community of Reit im Winkl. According to DHL, it’s the first time a parcel service provider has directly integrated a parcelcopter into its delivery chain.

“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,” said Jürgen Gerdes, management board member at Deutsche Post DHL Group.

Private customers in Reit im Winkl and on the Winklmoosalm plateau were invited to test the specially developed Packstations—the Parcelcopter Skyport. During the trial period, they placed shipments in the Skyport to initiate the automated shipment and delivery via Parcelcopter. A total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were performed.

DHL said that as part of the trial, the technically upgraded vehicle handled heavier loads, traveled longer distances and made deliveries to an alpine region noted for its geographical and meteorological challenges. After mastering changing weather conditions and temperature fluctuations, the Parcelcopter made eight-minute round trips from a valley to a plateau at roughly 1,200 meters above sea, level covering a distance of eight kilometers. During winter, the trip by car takes more than 30 minutes.

In the coming months DHL Parcel will analyze performance data and other insights from the trial with its research and development partner, the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Technischen Hochschule Aachen (RWTH). The findings will be used to select other potential areas for testing.

In 2013 DHL Parcel launched a research project on the use of a special drone—called the Parcelcopter—for transporting goods under real conditions to remote or geographically challenging areas. A location was selected for a 2014 trial on the North Sea island of Juist.

DHL operates in more than 220 countries and territories around the world. It’s part of the postal and logistics company, Deutsche Post DHL Group, and encompasses the business units of DHL Express, DHL Parcel, DHL eCommerce, DHL Global Forwarding, DHL Freight and DHL Supply Chain.


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