On July 1, the pioneer of urban air mobility (UAM), Volocopter, and international logistics leader, DB Schenker, announced that they have successfully conducted a joint static proof of concept (PoC) at Messe Stuttgart for VoloDrone ground operations in logistic centers. Together, the partners are creating the first blueprint for electric cargo drone ground operations in logistics with the support of Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics.
The static PoC tested how logistics operators can manage personnel, payloads, automated ground vehicles, and VoloDrones to create an efficient process and a safe environment for future VoloDrone operations. The blueprint derived from these results will be the first of its kind and serve as a basis for integrating VoloDrone operations in logistics networks across the globe, realizing automation and sustainability ambitions in supply chains.
"By developing a blueprint for VoloDrone operations, Volocopter is leading the way into the next dimension of transport logistics with tangible and operational data backing our service claims. Our work with DB Schenker shows that they are a great investor, a valuable partner, and an enabler for our commercial VoloDrone operations."
The research teams from Volocopter, DB Schenker, and Fraunhofer IML simulated the VoloDrone integration in a logistics network by examining the ground processes for coding goods, assessing safe cargo loads and goods, testing the automated supply of the drone through autonomous vehicles, and identifying other necessary pre-flight cargo checks. Following this, the processes for transporting and loading the VoloDrone payload were conducted and examined to identify safe, standard procedures for employees on the ground preparing the VoloDrone for flight.
"The VoloDrone unlocks new possibilities for the logistics industry, and it represents a key element for DB Schenker’s innovation and sustainability roadmap for logistics. Volocopter’s leadership in this emerging urban air mobility industry is most evident in their practical solutions, their customer-centric approach, and their commitment to bring UAM to life."
Since the beginning of their collaboration in mid-2019, Volocopter and DB Schenker have been developing the VoloDrone for commercial launch and assessing use cases for business-to-business drone services in logistics. The VoloDrone, Volocopter’s heavy-lift and versatile cargo drone, is battery powered, can transport a 200 kg payload up to 40 km, and has 18 rotors and motors powering the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. This UAM solution for intracity logistics will operate within Volocopter’s UAM ecosystem for cities, also consisting of passenger mobility services (VoloCity and VoloConnect), their infrastructure (VoloPort), and a digital backbone to coordinate and view all operations in real time (VoloIQ). The automated mobile robots for this PoC were provided by DB Schenker’s partner, Gideon Brothers, a pioneer for autonomous mobile robotics.
Once it is finalized, the blueprint will be available for project partners under a nondisclosure agreement.
Volocopter is building the world’s first sustainable and scalable urban air mobility business to bring affordable air taxi services to megacities worldwide. With the VoloCity, the company is developing the first fully electric "eVTOL" aircraft in certification to transport passengers safely and quietly within cities. Volocopter leads and cooperates with partners in infrastructure, operations, and air traffic management to build the ecosystem necessary to 'Bring Urban Air Mobility to Life'. Volocopter is also developing products for the logistics space with their heavy-lift cargo variant, the VoloDrone.
About Fraunhofer IML
The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML is the partner of choice for integrated logistics research. It works in all fields of internal and external logistics. In keeping with the Fraunhofer concept, solutions to problems for immediate use in business are developed on the one hand, but initial research is also conducted on the other hand for periods of two to five years, in some cases even longer. Currently 315 scientists as well as 250 doctoral candidates and students work at the institute founded in 1981, supported by colleagues in workshops, laboratories, and service departments.