DHL has announced the maiden voyage of their "Parcelcopter" will be made this Friday in Germany.
The unmanned drone service will be used to transfer drugs and other urgent medical supplies to a pharmacy on a remote island off the North coast. This is the first time an autonomous aircraft has been authorised to deliver goods in Europe.
The drone has been cleared by the German transport ministry and air traffic control to use a restricted airspace now reserved purely for the Parcelcopter's delivery missions. The flight zone is mostly open water on a 12km route to Juist island – a car-free island serviced by a ferry. But when the ferry is not running and supplies are needed, the drone can take the load, carrying up to 1.2kg per trip.
DHL, owned by Deutsche Post, says the service will begin on Friday – weather permitting – and continue until late October, keeping the community of 1,700 islanders in basic medical aid. The 5kg drone, which can reach 40 mph, has four rotor blades and will only take 15-30 minutes to complete its pilot test.
If this is successful, DHL could well be on their way to challenging Amazon's Prime Air project. Though German aviation laws could still pose a problem. Under national law, drones can't take off or land in populated areas, have to be remote controlled rather than fly on their own using GPS, and can't fly higher than 50 feet above the ground. Whether this signifies a change on the wind for the country's air code will be seen in the coming months.
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