Global delivery provider DHL Express has entered into a strategic partnership with EHang of China to launch what the companies describe as a fully automated drone delivery service for a specific DHL customer in China. The partnership is also focused on developing new logistics technologies for future last-mile drone delivery in urban areas of the country.
A launch ceremony for the DHL customer currently using the initial drone delivery technology was held on May 16 at the EHang Command and Control Center in Guangzhou, making DHL the first international express company to provide such a service in China.
“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,” said Wu Dongming, CEO, DHL Express China. “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 customized route was exclusively created for the initial DHL customer using the service. It covers a distance of approximately eight kilometres between the customer’s facility and the DHL service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province.
Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in EHang’s newly launched Falcon series, DHL explains this initial drone delivery solution overcomes the complex road conditions and traffic congestion common to urban areas in China. It reduces one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to just eight minutes, according to DHL, and can save costs of up to 80 per cent for each delivery.
“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,” said Hu Huazhi, founder and CEO of EHang. “Riding on today’s launch, we expect smart drone delivery as an innovative logistics solution to be expanded and realized in more areas.”
The EHang Falcon drone, with eight propellers on four arms, is designed with multiple redundant systems for full backup and secure flight control modules. EHang explains the drone includes 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, take off and land via intelligent cabinets that are specifically developed for the fully autonomous loading and offloading of the shipment. The intelligent cabinets connect with automated processes like sorting, scanning and storage of express mail, and will eventually feature high-tech functions such as facial recognition and ID scanning.
Building its first fully automated drone delivery solution in China, DHL states it will continue to identify new routes that can be developed for clients; working closely with EHang to create a second generation of drones to improve capacity and range.