Drones for delivering parcels and all types of goods is receiving massive investment from some really big players all over the globe.
With large companies such as Amazon, Walmart, UPS, Google and other global postal companies investing in drone delivery projects, it is only a matter of time before their drone parcel delivery service goals become a reality?
Will the day come, when we look above and see thousands of drones busily zipping along to deliver mail, parcels, medicine, pizza and any other small to medium sized item?
It is probably only a matter of a few years before we have our skies full of drones delivering parcels. There certainly are loads of technical challenges to overcome. There are also widespread privacy concerns to overcome. Perhaps drones for delivering parcels will be limited to just far out hard to reach places.
Drones For Delivery – Investment Projects
In this post we look at the some of the latest drone delivery success stories, the recent history of drone delivery along with the drones being used. We also look at the challenges, which need to be overcome if drone package delivery services are to become widespread.
Here are the top delivery drones, which are being used by the largest companies for delivering parcels and are featured below;
- Wing delivery drone
- Matternet M2 parcel delivery drone
- Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift delivery drone
- Rakuten Tenku delivery drone
- Condor parcel delivery drone
- Zipline autonomous delivery drone
- Flirtey delivery drone
Drones have terrific uses across multiple sectors from delivering parcels, advertising, cinematography, site surveying, mining, humanitarian projects, environmental projects and other areas. Here is a comprehensive list of drone uses.
Alphabet Project Wing Drone Courier Service
On August 18th, 2019, Google’s parent company called Alphabet’s announced that its drone delivery arm Wing will begin delivering goods for FedEx Express, Walgreens and another small retailer. The drone delivery pilot program will be based in Christiansburg, Virginia, and it’s meant to prove that Wing’s drones are ready to deliver health care products, fill the last mile delivery needs and give local retailers a boost.
In April 2019, Alphabet’s gained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for it’s Project Wing to conduct commercial drone flights in Virginia.
Project Wing, has been conducting trials in Virginia state since 2016, but the new FAA authorization will allow it to finally sell things like food or medicine ordered by consumers through the Wing app.
What Is Project Wing
Project Wing is an autonomous delivery drone service aiming to increase access to goods, reduce traffic congestion in cities, and help ease the CO2 emissions attributable to the transportation of goods. Wing is also developing an unmanned traffic management platform that will allow unmanned aircraft to navigate around other drones, manned aircraft, and other obstacles like trees, buildings and power lines.
FAA certification required Wing to submit evidence that their drone package delivery operations are safe. These submissions included data showing that a delivery by Wing carries a lower risk to pedestrians than the same trip made by car. The Project Wing delivery drones have flown over 70,000 test flights, and more than 3,000 deliveries to doorsteps, driveways and backyards of our customers in Australia.
Wing Delivery Drone
Below is an image of the Project Wing delivery drone. Their drones for delivery are evolving over time with different size and wingspan along with the technology for delivering parcels very precisely.
Latest Wing Delivery Drone News
In June 2020, Wing announced it was successfully using drones to deliver books to students in Virginia to assist with remote learning.
In April 2020, Wing announced that it has been successfully delivering snacks, pastries and meals for over 1 year in Vuosaari, which is a district in Helsinki, Finland.
Wing has been delivering meals by drone across Canberra in Australia for months now, with thousands of flights already.
Here is a video, which shows you how the Wings drone delivery service works. Using the Wing app on your smartphone, you will be able to order food, coffee, medicines or convenience items from the Wing’s drone deliver service with your item arriving a few minutes later.
Drone Package Delivery By Couriers & Post Offices
UPS Drone Delivery Services
On October 1st 2019, UPS Flight Forward Inc. a subsidiary of UPS, announced it has received the U.S. government’s first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline.
The company will initially expand its drone delivery service further to support hospital campuses around the country. UPS drones will also provide solutions for customers beyond those in the healthcare industry. UPS Flight Forward plans in the future to transport a variety of items for customers in many industries, and regularly fly drones beyond the operators’ visual line of sight.
Swiss Post Drone Delivery Service
Swiss Post is at the forefront of drone development and deployment for logistics. It transports special healthcare consignments in cooperation with a range of partners in various regions of Switzerland.
Going back to July 2015, Swiss Post tested the use of drones for mail delivery as part of a joint venture, which included Swiss WorldCargo and Matternet drone manufacturer. Their goal? To investigate the specific uses of drone technology and examine the cost-effectiveness of logistic drones.
Not just for mail/parcel delivery but also for emergency situations such as the delivery of emergency relief supplies or for high priority consignments such as laboratory samples.
In December 2018, their goal has now become a reality.
From 10 December 2018, Swiss post drone delivery service are transporting laboratory samples on behalf of Swiss Post from University Hospital Zurich (USZ) to the Irchel campus at the University of Zurich (UZH).
The project is envisaged to last one year. During this time USZ, UZH, Swiss Post and the drone logistics systems provider Matternet will gather experience in long-term autonomous drone operation.
The laboratory samples can reach their destination twice as quickly by air than by road in Zurich – the time saved can be invaluable to patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Matternet M2 Parcel Delivery Drone
Matternet is the world’s leading technology platform for on-demand drone delivery in urban environments.
It provides fast, and very predictable deliveries of medical items (blood samples, etc.) between facilities in hospital systems.
The Matternet M2 can carry payloads up to 4.4 lbs at distances up to 12.5 miles. The M2 can deliver items on-demand between hospital facilities in less than 30 minutes.
While the Matternet M2 is presently being used for healthcare deliveries, it can also be used to delivery all types of parcels up to 4.4 lbs (2 kg) which is a very good payload.
Matternet has also developed the ground parcel drone station where you can send and receive your parcels from. Here is a Matternet station introductory video.
Deutsche Post DHL Drone Delivery Service
In 2016, DHL Deutsche Post beat Amazon and Google with it’s launch of the first drone delivery service.
The DHL Parcelcopter is intended primarily for situations that mesh poorly with established infrastructures or where standard delivery methods are overly lengthy.
Locations not linked to the standard road network are one example. “Natural barriers” such as water or mountains are not an issue for the drone.
The DHL Parcelcopter is thus seen as a tool for improving infrastructure in hard-to-reach areas, improving the lives of the inhabitants there.
Revolutionizing the delivery of medicines to remote areas using drones – the pilot project Deliver Future proves that it’s not science fiction.
Three experts in their respective fields are making it happen: DHL, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German drone manufacturer Wingcopter.
Wingcopter Delivery Drone
The VTOL Wingcopter delivery drone is hovers like your typical multirotor drone and it also flies like a plane. There are 2 versions of this drone. The Wingcopter 178 and Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift. It is easy to fly, lightweight, rainproof and fast.
The Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift delivery drone has a maximum speed of 93 mph (150 km/h) in fixed wing mode. It can fly for a distance of 53 miles (100 km) with a payload of 4.4 lbs (2 kg). It has a maximum payload of 13.2 lbs (6 kg).
China’s JD.com Parcel Drone Delivery Service
In November 2018, A unit of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.Com has become the first company in the country to secure a license to operate drones for logistics on a provincial level. CAAC Northwest Regional Administration issued a business license for civil unmanned aerial vehicles to JD.com.
The move marks a major step for China in its exploration of using drones in the logistics sector. The landmark allows the further development of the industry in terms of standards and scale.
The company has set up logistics operations using unmanned aerial vehicles in seven Chinese provinces to date, namely, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Hainan, Qinghai, Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi. Their operation has helped with distribution challenges in rural and hard to get to areas and has extended intelligent logistics to reach more regions and more people.
Rakuten Tenku Delivery Drone
JD.com teamed up and uses the Rakuten Delivery Drone who produce the Tenku delivery drone.
Now, in fact, the Tenku multicopter delivery drone, was co-developed by Rakuten and ACSL.
The company ACSL takes its roots from the Nonami laboratory at Chiba University, which had been researching and developing full autonomous drones since 1998 with ACDL (Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory Ltd) being established on November 1st, 2013.
Japan Drone Delivery Services
Rakuten have a number of delivery services and projects going at present. So we can definitely say that Japans progress to drone deliveries is definitely progressing very fast. Here are just some of the drone deliveries by Rakuten.
- Rakuten drone delivers flowers for Mother’s Day.
- Rakuten Drone makes convenience store deliveries in Fukushima.
- Flying soy sauce marks first drone delivery to a private residence in Japan.
- Rakuten Airmap launches drone traffic management service in Japan.
You can read more on the Japanese drone delivery services by Rakuten drone delivery here.
Rakuten is a Japanese company and is massive in size. The company has over 70 businesses spanning e-commerce, digital content, communications and fintech.
Rakuten is Japan’s biggest e-commerce firm and employs more than 13,000 staff in Japan, with a turnover of around USD 20 billion per year. The main sponsors of Barcelona Football Club is Rakuten with a 4 year deal up to 2021. They really are a top company.
Indonesia Drone Package Delivery Service
In January 2019, JD.com, China’s largest retailer, today announced the completion of Indonesia’s first government approved drone flight. This is a breakthrough for drone delivery in Southeast Asia. The successful drone parcel delivery opens the door for future commercial drone use in Indonesia and the Southeast Asia region, subject to further regulatory approvals.
The test flight took place on January 8, 2019, in West Java, Indonesia, where the drone flew from Jagabita Village, Parung Panjang to MIS Nurul Falah Leles Elementary School to deliver backpacks and books to students. The items delivered by drone were part of a larger donation of supplies from JD.com to the school.
Here is the video telling you more about this drone delivery project for Indonesia.
Canada Parcel Drone Delivery Service
In February 2019, Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) has launched its newest cargo drone, the Condor, which is capable of carrying 400 lbs (180 kg) of payload and travelling 125 miles (200 km).
Unveiled to the public in Toronto on Feb. 19, the Condor has a wing span of about 20 feet and is powered by a gas propulsion engine.
About Drone Delivery Canada Company
DDC company is the developer of a drone delivery platform which provides next generation logistic services for Canadian retailers, service providers and government agencies.
Utilizing industry leading software, customization, and patent pending architecture, Drone Delivery Canada has a group of applications that come together under an umbrella to provide a complete solution for the delivery industry. The flight systems cover all aspects of a UAV from the operational component, but also integrate the logistics integration.
The operational platform includes full operational guidance, route planning, geo-fencing, alerts, telemetry, maintenance, logs, and full Preventative Maintenance scheduling and tracking.
In April 2019, the Toronto-based Drone Delivery Canada announced a new business strategy, committing to focus on eight new “business vertical sectors.” In a company release, DDC stated it would pursue new UAV strategies in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, oil-and-gas, mining, agriculture, forestry, construction and courier services.
Condor Parcel Delivery Drone
Here is a nice introduction to the Condor parcel delivery drone which can carry up to 400 lbs (180 kg).
Other Countries With Drone Parcel Delivery Projects
France’s national postal service, Le Groupe La Poste, has begun a testing program to bring delivery by autonomous drone to the country. This announcement comes on the heels of Amazon successfully completing its first drone delivery over in the U.K.
In April 2019, Ireland’s Postal Service delivered their 1st over over water parcel delivery by drone. On July 6th 2018, just after 3.30 pm, a parcel was delivered by drone from Roonagh Pier in Mayo to Clare Island. An Post said that it’s Ireland’s first ever autonomous parcel delivery from the mainland to an island using a drone.
Drone Parcel Delivery Operations In Loads Of Countries
In fact, there is 27 countries running drone parcel delivery services. Here is the full list of countries with drone delivery services.
Drones Delivering Medical Supplies And Medicine
Zipline Drone Deliveries Saving Lives
In September 2019, Zipline announced that Bono, the U2 front man has joined it’s board. In 2016, Bono co-founded The Rise Fund, a $2 billion impact investing fund which looks for companies creating what the fund calls “complete returns”— measurable positive social and environmental change along with financial returns.
In May 2019, The Rise Fund became one of Zipline’s investors, helping fund the company’s expansion as it works to solve the problem of getting medical supplies to remote and underfunded health centers.
Along with the investment from The Rise Fund, Zipline has raised $41 million from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang and Subtraction Capital.
Zipline now have drone delivery operations in Rwanda and Ghana.
1st Ever Successful Drone Delivery Service
In May 2016, Zipline through a partnership with the Government of Rwanda, started delivering all blood products for twenty hospitals and health centers, improving access to healthcare for millions of Rwandans.
Biggest Drone Parcel Delivery Services In The World
Zipline – Rwanda Healthcare Drone Delivery Service
In May 2016, the world’s first commercial drone delivery service was started in Rwanda, and it’s delivers blood and blood products. The service is operated by Zipline, a US robotics and drone company. The drones drop blood parcels on parachutes outside remote health centers.
Through a partnership with the Government of Rwanda, Zipline deliver all blood products for twenty hospitals and health centers starting this summer, improving access to healthcare for millions of Rwandans.
Rwanda’s government pays Zipline for the deliveries, each of which costs about the same as the motorbike deliveries used previously, according to Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s CEO.
Health workers can request a blood drop via text message and it arrives around 30 minutes later. That makes a big difference in a country where short road trips can take hours.
Blood loss after birth is one of the reasons maternal mortality is much higher in poor countries than rich ones; it’s the leading cause of death in Rwanda for pregnant women. And blood has to be stored carefully and matched to the recipient. You can read more on this new Zipline delivery service here.
More than two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products, often due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure.
Because of this, over 2.9 million children under age 5 die every year. And up to 150,000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each year if mothers had reliable access to safe blood.
Zipline – Ghana Healthcare Drone Delivery Service
Working with the Ghanaian government, Zipline will operate 30 drones out of four distribution centers to distribute vaccines, blood and life-saving medications to 2,000 health facilities across the West African nation daily.
The drone delivery program will do 600 flights a day and serve 12 million people. This is going to be the largest drone delivery network on the planet, says Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo
“No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need in an emergency,” Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement. “That’s why Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service…a major step towards giving everyone in this country universal access to lifesaving medicine.”
Zipline Delivery Drone
The Zipline autonomous delivery drone has the following specifications;
- Fly at a speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).
- Carry a payload of 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg) of medical supplies. In blood products the Zipline drone can carry 3 x 500 ml blood bags.
- Flight Range of 100 miles (160 km).
- Covers a 50 mile (80 km) zone around the medical and drone depot.
- In the air in 5 minutes from time the order is received by the system.
- Fuselage weights just 14.1 lbs (6.4 kg).
- Wings weight 4.4 lbs (2 kg).
- 9.84 feet (3 meter) wingspan.
The development and drone delivery service can have the drone in the air approximately 5 minutes after the order comes in. Speed in receiving medical supplies is vital in emergencies. The medical supplies are packaged in a padded parcel and have a parachute attached.
The GPS module is actually fitted to the battery pack. This means that the GPS is always on and satellites are recognized all the time. There is no waiting time lost by the drone detecting satellites after the drone is switched on. The battery pack just needs to slide into the Zipline drone. The launch time has been dramatically reduced by moving the GPS to the batty pack.
Also the Zipline drone is designed with redundant systems and has a parachute which is deployed in the result of a technical difficulties. This means the drone will land instead of crashing.
This next video shows you how the Zipline delivery drone gets into the air so fast. This includes comprehensive pre-flight checks of the drone. The video takes your through the full sequence and technologies from takeoff to dropping it’s parcel and landing. The video also talks about the various patents involved with the Zipline drone and systems for communicating with air traffic controllers.
It’s pretty wow technology.
Drone Delivery Of Insulin
In September 2019, a group of Irish based scientists completed what is being described as the first ever delivery of diabetes medicine using a type of drone technology off the coast of Co Galway.
Researchers from NUI Galway successfully piloted the drone from an airport in Connemara to the airstrip on Inis Mór on the Aran Islands, where it completed a delivery of insulin and glucagon.
The drone then collected a sample of patient’s blood from the island, before returning to the Connemara airport.
Its round trip journey, described as the world’s first ‘beyond visual line of sight drone delivery’ of the medicines took around 32 minutes to complete.
The 21 km journey was supported by the Irish Aviation Authority and took place between commercial flights, showing the possibility of future deliveries within planned corridors.
As the drone flew, its launch team had a live first-person view camera feed from the aircraft so that they could maintain their vision once the drone flew beyond their line of sight.
Drone Delivery Service – Is It Really The Future?
A little over 3 years ago, Amazon announced their smile emblazoned packages would soon be making their way to our homes via drone. At the time, most of us considered the idea either a publicity stunt or pure science fiction.
But lo and behold, the future of drone delivery is creeping nearer and nearer, as Amazon has already begun testing the Prime Air Delivery Service in “multiple international locations”.
While delivery by way of drone has numerous benefits, there are also some serious drawbacks that will need to be addressed before the system will ever meet with any major success.
Drones Delivering Packages: The Good
When you break it down, UAV delivery is far better for the environment than traditional methods. Compare the impact of an airborne, battery-powered drone delivering your order versus a large truck traveling over the road.
There’s obviously an enormous gain when it comes to emissions and drones are energy efficient. This also applies when comparing it to you driving your car to the store for the same purchase.
Furthermore, the more people that take advantage of drone delivery, the less weight trucks will be carrying — which means there will be a far smaller impact on our infrastructure.
Using UAVs as delivery vehicles has another interesting side effect — innovation. The list of the FAA’s current commercial exemptions also know as FAA 107 Waivers shows a surprisingly high number of businesses are utilizing popular mainstream drones with professional capabilities, such as DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro V2.
While these drone cameras do the handiwork for the various industries, they lack the capability to carry packages and that’s where innovation comes in. The ubiquitous quadcopter configuration didn’t seem to work for Amazon’s purposes, so their research and development team created an new drone prototype to fit the bill.
Drone Parcel Delivery – The Bad
One major flaw in the concept is the lack of designated delivery zones. Packages delivered by hand to residences and businesses are deposited in mailboxes, placed on porches or left with doormen — options that simply don’t work for drone deliveries.
Creating an infrastructure of convenient and secure areas for packages to be dropped will take both ingenuity and a heap of money.
UAVs are incredibly vulnerable pieces of equipment, particularly so during landings. If drones are landing in unprotected areas near residences, they will be subject to potential damage by pets, children, and the odd shotgun.
In such cases, not only would the expensive UAV be a loss, but so might be the package it was carrying. This could translate to millions of dollars in lost revenue per year, as well as some angry customers.
Last, but certainly not least, is the possibility of personal injury. UAVs are not a perfected piece of technology just yet and while they have safety features such as prop guards and ‘return to home’ systems, drone fails can and do arise arise.
If a delivery drone were to harm an individual (or damage personal property), the drone courier would be liable — leading to costly lawsuits and settlements. For drones to deliver mail, parcels, pizza, beer and groceries etc, they will have to be 110% safe.
If Amazon and other companies are able to work out the kinks associated with drone package delivery, then this could be just the beginning of an exciting future of commercial UAV use. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.
Drone For Delivery Challenges
There are lots of technical innovations still required for drones to be used in their thousands, possibly even millions worldwide as a delivery service. Some of these technical challenges are;
- Longer flight times – drone flight time average about 20 to 25 minutes presently.
- Quieter drones – drone are quite noisy. With thousands flying over us, we could be pretty loud.
- Collision avoidance systems and ultra safe drones with no crashes are a must. Safety must come first.
- Possible flight paths.
There are also privacy concerns regarding drones. It is no doubt that these the technical challenges will be found. The other questions is – Do we really want thousands or even hundreds of thousands of drones flying about delivering all types of parcels.
Perhaps, a drone delivery service will just be used in far out areas where it is not cost efficient to drive into the country side to deliver 1 item. Perhaps drones will be used widely to deliver parcels where there is very little road or rail infrastructure. Time will tell.
The below video shows of the new Yuneec Typhoon H, which has real collision avoidance sensors which is a big challenge to overcome for drones delivery parcels.
Drone For Delivery Projects
There are quite a few projects and big investment capital being put into the areas of collision avoidance and drone delivery systems. The potential in this field are huge and there are various fields of technology been used especially for collision avoidance.
Here are a few drone delivery projects which are ongoing.
Flirtey Conducts First U.S. Ship-to-Shore Drone Delivery
In June 2016 – Independent drone delivery service Flirtey and Dr. Timothy Amukele at Johns Hopkins successfully conducted the first ship-to-shore drone delivery in the U.S. on the New Jersey coastline, for the United Nations and the American Red Cross.
“Imagine a future where in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, Flirtey drones rapidly deliver emergency medical supplies, food and water,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny.
The drone collected medical samples from the shore and delivered them to a ship; then collected medicine from the ship and delivered it to the shore. The flights were autonomous and demonstrated how unmanned aircraft can provide life-saving aid to victims of a disaster, such as a hurricane.
Flirtey is the premier independent drone delivery service, with a mission to create the fastest, most efficient and customer centered delivery service in the world. The U.S.-based startup has worked with NASA, the University of Nevada, Reno, The New Jersey Test Site and Virginia Tech to create the leading technology and logistics systems for a mass-market drone delivery network.
Flirtey Receives FAA Approval To Fly Drones Beyond Visual Line Of Sight
In March 2019, drone delivery startup Flirtey announced on Friday that it has received federal approval for its pilots to fly drones beyond their visual line of sight.
Matt Sweeny, Flirtey CEO, called the development “a game changer” for the company. “With beyond-visual-line-of-sight approval, Flirtey pilots can now control drones from a remote location,” Sweeny said. “It means we can have someone in this office flying drones around the city.”
Sweeny credited Flirtey’s inclusion in the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program last year for the approval. Flirtey was one of only 10 applicants from across the country accepted into the program, beating larger competitors such as Amazon. The FAA received about 150 applicants for the initiative, which aims to fast-track drone testing for various applications.
As part of its application, Flirtey proposed a pilot program to deliver defibrillators by drone in partnership with ambulance provider Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority. The city of Reno was a partner in the project as well and welcomed Flirtey’s announcement about the latest approval it received from the FAA.
You can read more on the Flirtey drone delivery approval here.
In December 2019, Flirtey began conducting routine drone delivery demonstrations inside TRI Center, which is the largest industrial center in the United States.
In April 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted Flirtey a critical patent for the safe and precise drone delivery of packages.
Project Helin Drone Delivery Service
The Project Helin allows you to deliver any products with your drones autonomously and completely free. Helin have developed a platform which enables everyone to use their drones to provide a delivery service. It includes collision avoidance, route calculation, real time monitoring and is cloud based. You can view a video on the Project Helin here.
Amazon Prime Air Drone Delivery Service
Here is a short video where with Jeremy Clarkson discussing the not too distant future of Amazon’s Drone Delivery Service.
Domino’s Pizza Drone Delivery Project
This next video is showing how your Pizza delivery by drone could be just around the corner.