Inside Logistics

DHL offering last-mile drone delivery in China

Custom solution saving 80 percent on deliveries


May 28, 2019
by

The drones land in specially designed sorting platforms.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA & BONN – 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 last-mile delivery challenges in the urban areas of China.

The new customized route, which has been exclusively created for a DHL customer, 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, the new intelligent drone delivery solution overcomes complex road conditions and traffic congestion.

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

The drones have a 5-kilogram payload.

“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,” said Hu Huazhi, founder and CEO of EHang.

“Riding on today’s launch, we expect smart drone delivery as an innovative logistics solution to be expanded and realized in more areas, and we look forward to working with DHL in building the eco-system for a multi-dimensional urban air transport system.”

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.

The drones, which can carry up to 5 kg 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.

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 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.