In the 21st century we have become used to reports of death and destruction by drones but finally it seems the technology could be put to good use as a delivery system. Last week it was news that Amazon could begin using drones to deliver some goods — now comes the news that Germany’s postal service has successfully completed its first drone-based package delivery.
A yellow drone dubbed a “Paketkopter” was used to carry a pack of medicine from a Bonn pharmacy, across the River Rhine, to the Deutsche Post (DHL) headquarters a kilometer away. The drone flew at a height of 50 metres and the journey took an impressive two minutes. GPS tracking could be used in any future journeys but the test flight was operated by two men using remote control.
Once the technology is tried and tested, the sky is usually the limit with any new invention. Hold your horses though, as the drone delivery was just a test and DHL say they have no plans for running a commercial service yet.
Last week though, DHL was quick to annouce it had its own drone plans, in the face of Amazon's news. The Local reports “We are at the beginning of the research project,” said DHL manager Ole Nordhoff. “It is an exciting bit of technology.” Deutsche Welle reports the DHL test delivery was simply a technological feasibility study.
Even so the flight needed a special permit. As a report in GigaOm reports, choosing medicine for the test was ingenious. It is light, small and relatively easy to transport. Other positives about medicine is drones are also small but fast and this item could be urgently needed.
The traditional cost of transporting such items can be excessive, and slow. In the UK some hospitals, use a pressure canister system to whizz drug cards to the sites' Pharmacy but the actual drugs tend to be collected or delivered by hand. In some cases a costly courier service is used to deliver products between sites.
In theory drones could complete the work quicker and more cheaply but there would be obvious safety and patient confidentiality concerns.
Overall the conclusions of the test appear to be that drones delivering items such as medicine will only be cost effective when speed is of the essence. That is until bigger drones capable of carrying more items at a time are up and running.
For now it is a case of watch this space.