10 drone package delivery projects around the world

Around the world there are a growing number of projects that are moving us ever closer to the day when we will be getting our packages via air.  Want a chicken sandwich and a doughnut?  Place the order online and a few minutes later a drone will arrive with your order.  Or make it a pizza instead.  These are what 7-Eleven, Domino’s, and other companies are experimenting with.  DHL, Posti and Swiss Post are looking at small package delivery options and eCommerce sites like Amazon and Rakuten and testing delivery methods.

Of the designs being tested the two methods are a) land and detach package and b) from-air lower package to ground.  Each has its merits, however, the consideration for lowering the package for direct home delivery means the drone will not land in a consumer’s back yard, garden or driveway, which may be a potentially dangerous situation. Instead, the drone would remain in the sky and at a safe height and on-demand lower the package via cables.

The following are 10 drone delivery projects from around the world.

1. 7-Eleven (U.S.)

7-Eleven Flirtey drone package delivery

In July 2016 7‑Eleven and Flirtey announced that they had completed the first fully autonomous drone delivery to a customer’s residence in order to advance research toward integrating drones into the U.S. airspace. The delivery was the first time a U.S. customer has received a package to their home via drone.

From a Reno, Nevada 7‑Eleven store, two deliveries were made, where merchandise – including hot and cold food items – were loaded into a Flirtey drone delivery container and flown autonomously using precision GPS to a local customer’s house.  Once at the family’s backyard, the drone hovered in place and lowered the package to the ground. The purchases were delivered to the family in the span of a few minutes, with products included drinks, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee and candy. In the future, both companies expect drone packages to include “everyday essentials” such as batteries and sunscreen.

Watch Video and read more about 7-Eleven project

Source: 7-Eleven Press Release

2. Rakuten (Japan)

Rakuten Delivery Drone

eCommerce giant Rakuten has a taken the route to start a small test of the service concept on at one golf course. From May 2016, players at a golf course in Japan’s Chiba prefecture were able to use their phones while playing a round of golf to and request some new golf balls or refreshments be delivered to them. From there, based on the test, the thought is to look at expanding to other golf courses, with the end game being to ultimately be able to deliver directly to peoples’ homes some time in the future, similar to Amazon’s proposed Prime Air program.

In November 2016 Rakuten has performed a new test of package delivery service with upgraded capability.  This time with NTT DoCoMo, the cellular LTE network was integrated for long distance delivery capability testing. Based on the experience gained from the drone-based delivery service launched earlier in the year, Rakuten made further improvements to the product ordering app for users and the drone dashboard for controlling the drone. With these improvements combined with a new delivery drone, which features a number of performance enhancements including water-resistance, Rakuten has a more advanced drone-based delivery solution. The new drone is capable of long-distance flight with fully autonomous control and is equipped with a parachute to slow the speed of the fall in an emergency, offering a greater level of safety than conventional drones.

Watch Video and read more about Rakuten project

3. Amazon (U.K.)

Amazon package delivery drone dec 2016
Image: Amazon

Amazon announced that they made their first commercial package delivery using a drone on December 7, 2016, in the U.K.   The package arrived at a destination in Cambridge, 13 minutes after it was ordered.  The package was delivered via a quadcopter drone flying at up to 400 ft (122 m), that can take off and fly completely autonomously, guided by GPS to their destination and is capable of carrying items weighing up to 2.7kg (5lbs).  Amazon returned to the traditional multicopter design, from the hybrid multicopter-plane design used for the 2015 prototype.

Watch Video and read more about Amazon project

4. Domino’s (New Zealand)

drone delivery dominos
Image: Flirtey

Flirtey and Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Ltd (Domino’s) began in November 2016 autonomous delivery of pizzas from Domino’s stores to select customer homes, the first such deliveries anywhere in the world.  The deliveries were conducted in New Zealand as part of Flirtey and Domino’s Pizza Enterprises ongoing drone delivery testing.

Currently available to select customers, the two companies plan to launch pizza-by-drone deliveries at increasing scale in the near future.   The store-to-home flights are made possible by Flirtey’s advanced autonomous technology, complex safety systems and special packaging that have all been designed to complete deliveries across a variety of weather conditions and flight paths in suburban environments.

The Flirtey drone is constructed from carbon fibre, aluminium and 3D printed components. It is a lightweight, autonomous and electrically driven unmanned aerial vehicle. It lowers its cargo via tether and has built-in safety features such as low-battery return-to-safe-location programming and auto-return-home commands in case of low GPS signal or communication loss. The personal, on-demand delivery service developed by Flirtey, using proprietary software and hardware, represents a new age of delivery for a new generation of consumer.

Source: Press Release

5. DHL (Germany)

DHL Parcelcopter package delivery
Image: DHL

DHL is developing a complete drone package delivery system which includes the Parcelcopter 3.0 and DHL Packstation with SkyPort. The copter is loaded and unloaded automatically by a specially developed packing station and landing platform, eliminating the necessity for someone to manually/physically attach a package to the delivery drone and launch it.

DHL Parcel successfully concluded a three-month test of its third generation Parcelcopter. The trial run, part of a larger research and innovation project, was conducted between January and March 2016 in Reit im Winkl, Germany.  It represents the first time worldwide that a parcel service provider has directly integrated a parcelcopter logistically into its delivery chain. Private customers in Reit im Winkl and up on the Winklmoosalm plateau were invited to test out the specially developed Packstations, dubbed the Parcelcopter Skyport. During the three month trial period, they could simply insert their shipments into the Skyport to initiate automated shipment and delivery per Parcelcopter.   A total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were ultimately performed.  The drone’s cargo was typically either sporting goods or urgently needed medicines and it arrived at the Alm station within just eight minutes after take-off. The same trip by car takes more than 30 minutes during winter.

Source: DHL Press Release

6. Aeon (Japan)

drone package delivery AEON

Aeon (イオン), Japan’s huge general merchandise retailer and shopping mall developer, having the largest operating revenue in Japan’s retail industry, conducted a drone delivery test which involved delivering a 720 milliliter (24 ounce) bottle of wine.  This was an initial test, toward the Aeon Mall, the company’s online shopping site, targeting actual drone home delivery services for the year 2019.

Watch Video about Aeon project

7. Swiss Post (Switzerland)

Swiss Post drone package delivery
Image: Swiss Post

Above is the updated version of Swiss Post’s package delivery drone.  In July 2015 Swiss Post utilized a previous design for its test where Swiss Post, Swiss WorldCargo and Matternet jointly tested the commercial use of logistics drones. The three companies are investigating specific uses of drone technology and examining the cost-effectiveness of these business ideas.  According to a Swiss Post’s press release, the three companies were to carry out testing of
drone delivery in July 2015.  The group planned to test several Matternet ONE drones, which are specially designed for
transporting small deliveries and is capable of transporting loads up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) over more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) with a single battery charge.  The Matternet ONE is an autonomous flying device, following a clearly defined flight path.

Watch Video about Swiss Post 2015 test

8. Posti (Finland)

Posti drone package delivery

The Finnish company, Posti, completed a four day test of parcel delivery via a drone in September 2015.  The postal services company flew drones carrying up to a 3 kilogram package weight from Finland’s capital of Helsinki to the island of Suomenlinna located about 5km away.  The Reuters video reported that this was the first time in Europe to test mail delivery in an urban area.  While the test looked to be successful, a company representative noted that it will probably be 2-3 years before everything will in place in order to make the drone parcel delivery service a reality.

Watch Video about Posti project

Source: Posti

9. SF Express (China)

SF Express and XAIRCRAFT drone delivery

Chinese logistics company SF Express has begun using small drones to deliver packages to remote and mountainous areas in south China.  SF Express says it already has a fleet of drones flying 500 parcels a day to the remote areas and now is looking to double capacity to 1,000 packages a day, according to an article on DailyMail.com

Xaircraft indicated that they had been working with SF Express on testing/developing drones for package delivery since 2013 and that actual deliveries were schedule to start in 2015 … we therefore assume that the drones being used by SF Express for their new service are those from Xaircraft.

According Xaircraft’s website, its delivery drones can carry loads up to 10 kilograms (353 oz), with a maximum range of 20 kilometers (12 miles).  Prior to each flight of the parcel drone, a worker needs to place the drone in a designated spot. Destination and route information is preprogramed, and the drone can fly on its own.

Watch Video about SF Express project

10. Alibaba Taobao (China)

Alibaba drone delivery test

Alibaba Group’s Taobao Marketplace shopping website partnered with China logistics company YTO Express in a one-off trial of drone technology, delivering ginger tea packets to 450 customers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou over a three-day period starting Feb. 4, 2015.

Watch Video about Alibaba project