Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Express Parcels Direct by Air to Clients Become a Reality for One Logistics Customer

Drone Delivery Services Gain a Foothold in China
Shipping News Feature
CHINA – International delivery service provider, DHL Express, and the intelligent autonomous aerial vehicle company, EHang, have entered into a strategic partnership to jointly launch a fully automated and intelligent smart drone delivery solution to tackle one particular customer's last-mile delivery challenges in the urban areas of China.

The new customised route, which has been exclusively created for a DHL client, covers a distance of approximately eight kilometres between the customer premises and the DHL service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province. Using the most advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in EHang’s newly-launched Falcon series, featuring the highest level of intelligence, automation, safety and reliability, the new intelligent drone delivery solution aims to overcome the complex road conditions and traffic congestion common to urban areas.

It reduces 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. Wu Dongming, CEO, DHL Express China, said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with EHang to set a new innovation milestone with this new fully-automated and intelligent drone logistics solution, which combines the strength of the world’s largest international express company together with one of the leading UAV companies in the world.

“This is an exciting time for the logistics sector, with continued growth of the Chinese economy and cross-border trade, particularly in South China and the Greater Bay Area, which is home to an increasing number of SMEs and start-ups. This means there is a tremendous volume of logistics needs, which in turn creates new opportunities for implementing innovative solutions that can continuously drive growth with greater efficiency, sustainability and less cost.”

The EHang Falcon smart drone, with eight propellers on four arms, is designed with multiple redundant systems for full backup, and smart and secure flight control modules. Its high-performance 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.

As a fully-automated and intelligent solution, the drones, which can carry up to 5 kilogrammes 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 seamlessly 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.

Safety is another important function of the new solution that takes a wide range of protective aspects into consideration, including product, operation, communication and emergency support system. The drones are controlled via EHang’s state-of-art central command and control centre that closely monitors the entire drone flight path to ensure the safety and reliability of every flight, with operational features such as auto-avoidance of route conflicts and auto-assessment and warning in case of emergency, effectively avoiding no-fly zones and eliminating the risk of human manipulation. Hu Huazhi, Founder & CEO of EHang, said:

“Together with DHL we are very glad to bring the first smart drone delivery service route to China in Guangzhou; this marks a new beginning in building air logistics for smart cities. Riding on today’s launch, we expect smart drone delivery as an innovative logistics solution to be expanded and realised in more areas, and we look forward to working with DHL in building the eco-system for a multi-dimensional urban air transport system.”

This smart drone delivery solution will look to expand DHL’s delivery capabilities and create a new customer experience in the logistics sector that opens up even more opportunities for sustainable growth and greater economic contribution. Given the growing prominence of B2C business operations and delivery in China, employing drones in express delivery services offers an innovative solution for meeting the increasing demands for time-sensitive delivery, particularly for last mile delivery in urban areas.

Building on the launch of its first fully automated, intelligent drone delivery solution in China, DHL says it will continue to identify new routes that can be developed for clients in need of tailored customer services and logistics solutions 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.

As we have stated previously drones do have a place in the logistics sector and are most useful for small items consigned to out of the way areas, ships at sea etc., emissions monitoring, as well as in a surveying role. DHL have indeed been working on finding a niche for the devices for some time.

However, with the restrictions imposed on their use near flight paths and airports, coupled with limited carrying capacity and their vulnerability to attack from vandals and disgruntled onlookers, we are still a long way from seeing them used on a daily basis in regular delivery situations.