China: DHL launches drone delivery service
DHL Express and drone manufacturer EHang have entered into a strategic partnership to develop a fully automated drone delivery solution for China’s metropolitan areas. The cooperation has already started with a maiden flight at the EHang Command and Control Center in Guangzhou.
From now on, shipments will be transported daily between the DHL Service Center in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province and a customer’s location eight kilometers away.
The typical delivery time by road is thus reduced from around 40 minutes to just eight minutes. The drones take off and land on intelligent parcel boxes, which were especially developed for autonomous loading and unloading operations. These platforms are seamlessly integrated into the classic sorting, scanning and storage automation processes of express delivery.
Hu Huazhi, CEO of EHang sees great future potential with the technology: “Riding on today’s launch, we expect smart drone delivery as an innovative logistics solution to be expanded and realized in more areas, and we look forward to working with DHL in building the eco-system for a multi-dimensional urban air transport system.” When and whether the technology will be adapted for international markets was not stated, however it stands to be reasoned that many countries have complex laws governing their airspace, which means the drones may have to stand up to rigid expectations before we can expect to see them taking to the skies over Europe and America.
The latest Falcon drone from EHang was used for the test route, which was specially tailored to the requirements of DHL customers. The Falcon has eight rotors distributed over four arms and includes several redundant systems for comprehensive backup as well as intelligent and safe flight control modules.
With the introduction of this first fully automated drone delivery service, DHL Express aims to rapidly develop new routes for its customers in China. In this context, a second generation of drones will be developed in close cooperation with EHang to further increase capacity and range.