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Logistics & Fulfilment

DHL China to start drone deliveries

DHL China is to start delivering goods by drones, cutting the delivery time on a route in Guangzhou from 40 minutes to just eight.

The international express delivery-service provider has entered into a strategic partnership with autonomous aerial-vehicle firm Ehang to jointly launch a fully automated smart drone-delivery solution to tackle last-mile delivery challenges in Chinese urban areas.

Using the most advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in Ehang’s newly-launched Falcon series, the new intelligent drone delivery solution overcomes the complex road conditions and traffic congestion common to urban areas. It reduces one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to eight minutes and can save costs of up to 80 per cent per delivery, with reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint compared with road transportation.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Ehang to set a new innovation milestone with this new fully-automated and intelligent drone logistics solution,” said DHL Express China CEO Wu Dongming, “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 startups. 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 lower cost.”

The new customised route, which has been exclusively created for a DHL customer, covers a distance of approximately 8km between the customer premises and the DHL service center in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

“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 founder & CEO of Ehang Hu Huazhi. “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.”

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 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.

This smart drone delivery solution will enhance 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 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.

This story first appeared on sister site Inside Retail Asia.



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