The market leading international logistics concern DHL has used a Microdrones md4-1000 for the first time to deliver a parcel. In a successful test flight at DHL’s headquarters, the "parcelcopter" undertook a delivery from a pharmacy on the opposite side of the Rhine to concern headquarters in Bonn’s Rheinaue district. It took the quadrocopter, decked out in DHL yellow, around five minutes to cover the 2.7 kilometre flight path, landing safely with its cargo on a green space at Bonn’s Posttower.
The drone, whose flight was granted permission by the German authorities, flew at a height of ca. 50 metres above an uninhabited area. While problem-free GPS navigation would have been technically possible, the parcelcopter was controlled throughout the test flight by two pilots who kept in constant visual contact with the small aerial device, as is the procedure prescribed by the authorities for flights of this nature.
Around 2.6 kg in weight, the md4-1000 can remain in the air for up to 90 minutes and reach a top speed of 50 km per hour. The quadrocopter required only a few minutes for the flight over the Rhine. A parallel delivery by car of the parcel in Bonn’s traffic would have taken considerably longer, with a distance of six kilometres over one of the bridges.
Plans to deploy a drone in everyday delivery operations are still in an early phase, however according to DHL the test flight was more than just a PR stunt at Christmas time.
Following Amazon, who signalled in 2013 that it was considering using drones for parcel deliveries, DHL is also showing a genuine interest in further research and development work on this technology. Microdrones aerial vehicles represent a promising technological alternative especially in the case of supplying customers in areas where the infrastructure is poor.