DHL Express and EHang are launching a drone delivery service to tackle the last-mile delivery challenges in urban areas of China.

DHL Express and EHang are launching a drone delivery service to tackle the last-mile delivery challenges in urban areas of China.

DHL claims to be the first international express company to provide such a service in China.

The customised route has been exclusively created for a DHL customer and covers approximately eight kilometres between the customer premises and the DHL service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Cutting costs and energy

Using the most advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in EHang‘s newly-launched Falcon series, the drone delivery solution reduces one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to only eight minutes, the partners claim. They also say it could save costs of up to 80% per delivery, as well as reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint compared with road transportation.

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.

Intelligent cabinets

Its 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 can carry up to 5kg of cargo per flight and take off and land on top of “intelligent cabinets” which have been specifically developed for the fully autonomous loading and offloading of the shipment.

The cabinets connect with automated processes including sorting, scanning and storage of express mail, and will feature functions such as facial recognition and ID scanning.

“Innovation milestone”

Wu Dongming, CEO, DHL Express China, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with EHang to set a new innovation milestone with this new fully automated and intelligent drone logistics solution, which combines the strength of the world’s largest international express company together with one of the leading UAV companies in the world.”

He added: “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 less cost.”

A new beginning for air logistics

Mr Hu Huazhi, Founder & CEO of EHang, said, “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.

“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.”

What’s next?

DHL says it will continue to identify new routes for clients that need tailored customer services and logistics solutions. The company will work 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.

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