The small German island of Juist, 12 kilometers from the mainland, will receive supplies by drone when traditional modes of delivery are unavailable. DHL have said that the drone will be used to supply medication and other items which may be urgently needed.
A groundbreaking development
Although Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) both proposed drone delivery services a couple of years ago, DHL is the first company to implement a viable service. Both Amazon and Google have stated that routine drone delivery missions are years away from becoming a reality.
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This is due in part to regulatory issues, as well as the complications of delivering in complex urban and suburban environments. DHL has overcome these problems by programming the drone to fly at less than 50 meters of altitude, to avoid entering air traffic corridors, and implementing an easy to navigate route over the sea.
DHL’s potential expansion of commercial drone flights
Technology companies have been touting the use of drone delivery services for sparsely populated areas to sidestep the complications posed by urban environments. Google tested its drone technology in the Australian outback, making deliveries to remote cattle ranches.
Governments have been wary of authorizing drone services due to safety concerns, and the U.S. government has not even permitted testing of commercial drones, prompting Amazon and Google to carry out testing abroad.
Amazon and DHL have developed rotary-blade copters which delivery packages upon landing. Google on the other hand has taken a different tack, testing a fixed-wing aircraft for greater range and speed.
By focusing on remote areas and specialized routes, the companies presumably believe that they have a better chance of convincing governments to cooperate with them in designating specific air traffic corridors for drones, removing the regulatory obstacle.
DHL has overcome safety concerns by constantly monitoring the drone from a ground station, although the flight is completely automated. It would appear that the technology is ready, at least for flights in remote areas, and governments could allow for the rapid expansion of commercial drone flights by relaxing regulations.