Today, drones are making last-mile deliveries for almost everything from fast food to emergency medical supplies to household products. However, as supply chains adapt to increased last-mile deliveries, a tremendous opportunity is emerging for another segment – middle-mile delivery.
Middle-mile is the delivery of goods from a warehouse or distribution center to fulfillment facilities from where consumers purchase their products. Companies today have started focusing on middle-mile logistics because it can offer cost-savings opportunities, last-mile doesn’t. At the same time, customers are demanding fast, innovative solutions with zero-emissions for their supply chains.
The partnership between DB Schenker and the German company Volocopter, a pioneer in urban air mobility (UAM), targets to provide solutions addressing this demand. After a successful first demo flight we now plan further flights to prove the commercial potential of the VoloDrone, a heavy-lift and versatile cargo drone designed for logistics and transport use cases. Besides middle-mile deliveries the drone addresses further use cases in coastal and mountain areas as well as for maritime applications such as shore-to-deliveries.
The VoloDrone aircraft weighs 600 kilograms and is fully electric with autonomous beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities. It 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. According to Florian Reuter, Volocopter CEO, the VoloDrone will make existing logistics processes more robust, efficient, and sustainable. Clean and quiet, the VoloDrone will be an ideal means of transporting cargo and is just the tip of the sustainability iceberg.
While not all logistics can be handled by drones, it’s clear that heavy-lift cargo drones will play a critical role in supply chains to drive sustainability and resiliency. The ideal, optimized 21st-century supply chain will require a mixture of electric drones, autonomous trucks, CO2-neutral all-cargo aircraft, and carbon-neutral container ships. Cargo drones allow us the opportunity to rethink logistics routes making the possible applications in logistics limitless.