DHL Partners with RWTH in the Parcelcopter Project


As part of the Parcelcopter research and innovation project, between January and March 2016, DHL and its research partner RWTH Aachen have successfully tested the third generation of the parcelcopter in the Bavarian community of Reit im Winkl. DHL is the first package delivery provider that succeeded in integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into the delivery chain.



RWTH Aachen University

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  DHl PArcelcopter Copyright: © DHL/Andreas Heddergott

Using a newly developed parcel station, the Parcelcopter SkyPort, private DHL customers in Reit im Winkl and the Winklmoosalm plateau were able to send and receive parcels during the three-month testing phase. The parcels, which were loaded and unloaded automatically at the SkyPort parcel stations, were transported by an unmanned aerial vehicle, the "parcelcopter."

As part of the project, the parcelcopter was further developed to be able to carry higher loads, fly longer distances, and deliver packages in mountainous regions and thus under demanding meteorological and geographical conditions.

For the testing phase, an electrically-driven autonomous aerial vehicle equipped with a tilt-wing configuration was used. The autonomous aerial vehicle, designed by the RWTH Institute of Flight System Dynamics, meets the demands of silent low-emission flight and is capable of precise vertical take-off and landing at the Skyports.

After optimizing the vehicle to master the challenging weather conditions in the test area, several successful flights were performed. The trip from the valley to the plateau at roughly 1,200 meters above sea level covered eight kilometers of flight. The cargo, typically sporting goods or urgently needed medicine, was delivered within just eight minutes after take-off. By comparison, delivery by car in the winter takes about 30 minutes.

In the next few months, DHL Parcel and its development partners from RWTH Aachen will analyze the data from the trial run and decide on further possible trial runs in other regions.

The success of the trial phase was made possible by the outstanding collaboration with the municipality of Reit im Winkl and various federal agencies, such as the Federal Ministry for Transportation (BMVI) and the Aviation Authority for the Region of Upper Bavaria.


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