DHL unveils drone delivery service in China

DHL Express and EHang, an intelligent autonomous aerial vehicle company, have entered into a partnership to jointly launch a fully automated and intelligent smart drone delivery solution to tackle the last-mile delivery challenges in the urban areas of China.

The drone took its inaugural flight recently for a DHL customer, apparently making it the first international express company to provide such a service in China. The route, which has been exclusively created for a DHL customer, is approximately 8km between the customer premises and the DHL service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Using the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in EHang’s newly launched Falcon series, featuring a high level of intelligence, automation, safety and reliability, the new drone delivery solution overcomes road conditions and traffic congestion common to urban areas. The smart drone, with eight propellers on four arms, is designed with redundant systems for full backup, and smart and secure flight control modules. Its features include vertical take-off and landing, high accuracy GPS and visual identification, smart flight path planning, fully automated flight and real-time network connection and scheduling. The drones, which can carry up to 5kg of cargo per flight, take off and land atop intelligent cabinets that were specifically developed for the fully autonomous loading and offloading of the shipment. The intelligent cabinets connect with automated processes including sorting, scanning and storage of express mail, and will feature high-tech functions such as facial recognition and ID scanning.

It is set to reduce one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to only eight minutes and can save costs of up to 80% per delivery, with reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint compared with road transportation.

DHL argues that given the growing prominence of B2C business operations and delivery in China, employing drones in express delivery services offers a solution for meeting the increasing demands for time-sensitive delivery, particularly for last mile delivery in urban areas. 

DHL will continue to identify new routes that can be developed for clients and will work closely with EHang to create a second generation of drones in the near future that will further improve capacity and range in drone-operated express delivery.

Source: Deutsche Post DHL Group