DHL parcelcopter’s first autonomous flight delivers medication
images courtesy of DHL
DHL ‘parcelcopter 2.0′ marked the first autonomous delivery flight in europe by sending emergency medication to the island of juist. the unmanned aircraft operated outside of the pilot’s field of vision to transport the urgent goods to the north sea archipelago and is the next phase of the parcelcopter research project launched in december 2013. the institute of flight system dynamics at RWTH aachen university and microdrones GmbH were the development partners alongside DHL that modified the drone to perform against the special challenges posed by the weather conditions. critically, one such development is the air-transport container that is extremely lightweight as well as weather and waterproof.
to successfully accomplish the 12 kilometer journey, design aspects such as flight duration, range and speed were addressed. as well, to ensure that it operates reliably, flies safely and always lands at the right location, an autopilot with automated takeoff and landing functions was developed. for safety reasons and in compliance with requirements set by the DFS deutsche flugsicherung GmbH, the drone was constantly monitored during the aviation by a ground station in norddeich. at an altitude of 50m, it can travel at 18 meters per second – depending on wind speed – to deliver medications from the mainland at times when ferries and charters are not available.
‘our DHL parcelcopter 2.0 is already one of the safest and most reliable flight systems in its class that meets the requirements needed to fulfill such a mission,’ said jürgen gerdes, CEO of deutsche post DHL’s post – eCommerce – parcel division. ‘we are proud that this additional service can create added value for the residents of and visitors to the island of juist and are pleased with the support we have received from the involved communities and agencies.’
‘with the DHL parcelcopter, an unmanned aircraft operating outside the controller’s field of vision will perform deliveries for the first time in a real-world mission. without the extremely high level of willingness to innovate and to find solutions exhibited by the involved agencies, communities and the wattenmeer administrative unit of lower saxony, such a project would not be possible,’ jürgen gerdes emphasized.
the air-transport container is extremely lightweight as well as weather and waterproof