German logistics company DHL will launch trials of its ‘parcelcopter’, the first service in Europe authorised to use drones for delivery of goods.
The parcelcopter will be delivering small packets to the German island of Juist in the southern North Sea, which is home to approximately 1,700 people. The tests will commence on Friday 26 September and will continue until the end of October, with the drones only flying in good weather.
The 5kg quadcopter can carry parcels up to the weight of 1.2kg and reach the maximum speed of 65km/h, covering the distance to Juist in 15 to 30 minutes depending on weather conditions.
Although the parcelcopter’s flights will be completely automated, the control teams based on the mainland will be carefully monitoring the whole process.
If the trials go well, DHL hopes to include the parcelcopters into its fleet permanently. The company would like to use the drones in emergencies to deliver urgently needed goods, such as medications, to remote areas when other means of transport like ferries or planes are suspended or unavailable.
DHL, owned by Germany's Deutsche Post, has followed the example of the US tech giant Google and online retail company Amazon and has become Europe’s first delivery company to explore the potential of the nascent technology as part of its business.
The Juist trials were approved by the German ministry of transport as well as the country’s air traffic control authority. The conditions of the permission state that DHL can only fly the parcelcopter to Juist and has to avoid buildings and inhabited areas.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a hit among engineers all over the world for their potential to revolutionise land and crop surveying or monitoring of electrical networks and gas pipelines, have been criticised by many because of privacy issues.
The critics also fear drones could cause dangerous accidents by colliding with other aircraft or hitting people, especially if delivering goods in densely inhabited areas.