Unmanned Parcel Delivery is a reality!

DHL parcel services has started a pilot (and did a successful test) of parcel delivery from the German mainland to one of the small islands off the North-Sea Coast.

Very impressive!! I will leave my personal comments for in the comments section.

Apart from the technical side of this, which have been done before, it does seem a next step given the regulatory approval.

The technical partners are the Institute of Flight System Dynamics at RWTH Aachen University and Microdrones GmbH.

English Press release: LINK




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  • From technical point of view - yes. They only painted drone to yellow :-).

    They didn't show back flight. Microdrone MD4-200 or MD4-1000 can execute mission with automatic landing at last waypoint even when it lost connection with transceiver. Of course only if there is no wind. Even in light wind it will bounce and will crash in most cases.

    As I remember it's possible to send Microdrone back without transmitter if function "route auto-execution" switched on. Usually this function disabled to prevent Microdrone flight-away if operator forgot to switch on transceiver :-).

    But you will need to connect Microdrone by cable to laptop and upload flight plan for way back. Not very comfortable but good enough for such experiments.

    Microdrones well protected from rain and snow. We have such experience.

  • So all DHL really succeeded in doing was secure a corridor ofairspace and put out a splashy headline saying me too?
    On another note will electric powered UAV's be all weather capable? My motors never liked moisture.
  • I personally have a big experience with Microdrones and when I first read about this I was full of skepticism.

    I used Microdrones in very different conditions, including windy weather in mountains, on coastal line and even from the ship.

    I can say that Microdrones have excellent flying characteristics, but not in wind. I think that maximum wind resistance of MD4-1000 (this model on photos) with such big cargo bay under hull will be maximum 3-5m/s.

  • Agreed rob.

    all my crashes were from having too much fun, not any actual problems.

    I was considering inventing a capture system like a robotic net.

  • Yes, the quad vs. hexa+ redundancy debate is interesting.  Funny how manned aircraft aren't all required to have redundant power?  In fact, I recently heard there's some back-and-forth between US and European helicopter companies.  I guess in Europe, it's more common to have only a single engine.  In the US, it's more common to have 2+ engines. It seems to make sense, but the Europeans say "The second engine just takes you to the crash scene." (ie: you'll still crash eventually anyway).  So why the double standard for unmanned aircraft?  Especially considering electric propulsion should be more reliable than fuel.  

    In the meantime... just last night I did my first auto-rotations on an Arducopter Heli.  Manual at this point, but auto will come.  It was easier than I thought. :)

    Jose: 40 minutes with a 600g payload is pretty respectable.  88 is probably vaporware but if you are reliably getting 40 minutes with that payload, that's pretty good.  Thanks for the data.

    I agree with others however, that a quadcopter just seems like the wrong kind of aircraft for this mission.  Seems like it should be doable for an airplane.  I'm surprised we don't see very much work being done towards STOL aircraft (nevermind VTOL).  Seems all designs revolve around the concept of a catapult launch, and a crash landing.

  • It seems that many companies have terrible advisers. Copters have many uses, but long-distance delivery is not one of them.

  • Rob. I agree 88mins is not real with standard batteries, (1960g, 14.600 Ah, 6s2p). At least not with my unit which is one of the early series.

    With brand new bat, and with 600g (camera+lens+gimbal), it may endure a  40min flight. There is not much room for a bigger pack, so I guess the 88min record has little to do with a real life case.

    Is it overprized? ... may be, but is extremely well constructed, it is very very very reliable, I have done hundreds of real flights. I would be much more confident sleeping under this quad than under any redundant anycopters I've seen up to now.

  • It has too much side surface area due to the fairing, I suspect.

    Re: the six+ rotor requirement - I might have to get you to quote sources there Hughes - it's not a rigid requirement here (Switzerland). They'd prefer you to have redundant failsafes instead (which is why the commercial guys feel the pressure to install parachutes). If this is indeed the case, that's a disturbing development.

  • From a legislative POV it maybe a good achievement. However from a technical perspective there is nothing new.

    On top if that, as Giovanni has pointed out, the MD quad is not the one you want to use in medical deliveries. I have seen it fly closely and it does not manage wind as well as others.
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