While Amazon is busy testing out its Amazon Air drone delivery system, DHL Parcel has just successfully completed a three-month test of its Parcelcopter 3.0 UAV.
The DHL trial, conducted between January and March 2016, saw residents of the Bavarian town of Reit im Winkl and the nearby Winklmoosalm plateau send and receive packages via specially-developed robotic Packstations, dubbed Skyports.
“Customers could simply insert their shipments into the Skyport to initiate automated shipment and delivery by Parcelcopter,” explained DHL. “A total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were ultimately performed.”
As part of the trial, the technically upgraded vehicle was able to deal with heavier loads, longer distances and delivery to an alpine region notable for its geographical and meteorological challenges.
The first task 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 covered eight kilometers of flight. The drone's cargo was typically either sporting goods or urgently needed medicines and it arrived at the Alm station within just eight minutes of take-off. The same trip by car takes more than 30 minutes during winter.
The new version of the Parcelcopter can take off vertically like a helicopter before then moving forward like an airplane. It is capable of flying along at a speed of up to 70 km/h while securely holding on to a package that can weigh up to 4.4 pounds for a maximum distance of 8.3 km.
Ultimately, the new Parcelcopter well and truly proves that drone-based package deliveries aren't just a thing of the future, but are fast becoming a part of the present system of package delivery infrastructure.
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