DHL’s Parcelcopter to Become First Drone to Fly on its Own

DHL Parce
l announced today that it’s ready to launch its “parcelcopter” on a series of 12-mile test runs between the German city of Norden and the North Sea island of Juist. It will be the first commercial delivery drone to be totally automated.

While crafts unleashed in Australia by Flirtey were the first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to make commercial deliveries earlier this year, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has unveiled plans for his own fleet, UAVs are not yet cleared for takeoff in the United States. Stateside tests of the small aircraft were begun only this year by the Federal Aviation Authority.

The launch of the parcelcopter comes after DHL completed a comprehensive approval process administered by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Economics, Labor, and Transport. The approval confined the test to the Norden-to-Juist route, which will be used by the parcelcopters to deliver prescription drugs to the isolated island.

No pilots on the ground will take any action to complete the programmed flight of the crafts, though the UAVs will be monitored by operatives at a ground station in case of malfunction or emergency. The parcelcopter, which flies at a altitude of about 165 feet, will land on a pad in Juist and the drugs will be delivered to a pharmacy by a DHL courier. Merchandise is contained in a lightweight and waterproof container.

“An unmanned aircraft operating outside the controller’s field of vision will perform deliveries for the first time in a real-world mission,” said Jürgen Gerdes, CEO of DHL Parcel. “We are proud that this additional service can create added value for the residents of and visitors to the island of Juist.”

To date, DHL has not announced specific plans to incorporate parcelcopters into regular parcel delivery operations.

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