Specific projects and applications

Deutsche Post DHL recently completed a three-month test period using a parcelcopter (a third-generation transport drone) for business-to-customer and customer-to-customer parcel delivery in a defined area in the Bavarian Alps. The test represents the first time worldwide that a parcel delivery service has directly integrated a drone logistically into its delivery chain for end-customer delivery (there had been an earlier test for deliveries to Germany's North Sea islands).

DHL plans to use drones as a delivery alternative or to integrate them into logistic processes, particularly for certain time-sensitive transport goods (eg, pharmaceuticals) in difficult terrain, with plans for further application in urban areas.

Amazon has declared its plans for end-customer delivery of parcels using in-house developed special transport drones (known as 'Amazon Prime Air') with the special characteristics of high transport velocity and an anti-collision system. The portable weight of parcels is limited to 2.5 kilograms. The project is still in the planning stage and has development centres established in Austria, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Earlier in 2016 Lufthansa AG discussed planned cooperation between Lufthansa Aerial Services and DJI (the leading provider of drone technology from China). The plan is to provide specialised drones for inspection, measuring and monitoring purposes.

A possible application range for drones is the inspection of wind power plants, which has already been the subject of a pilot project. Tests are taking place at Frankfurt airport.

Further activities

French logistics provider GEODIS has already started tests regarding the use of drones, not for delivery but for warehousing purposes. These special drone types are specifically designed to simplify inventory procedures and consist of a ground-based robot unit with a separate quadcopter unit with high-resolution cameras.

There has been intensive press coverage of Google's activities to establish an independent drone parcel delivery system, which is planned to be implemented in 2017.

Technical alternative: ground-based drones

Drones are typically understood to be flying objects, but there are also certain earth-based drones used mainly for military and police purposes. Ground-based designs for transportation and delivery purposes remain in the planning. Plans to create specialised delivery drones to be used separately or combined in case of heavy loads are also underway.

Market relevance

Survey results have shown that approximately 13% of customers have a specific interest in drone delivery. A further 30% have declared general interest in the subject. Such results suggest that a relevant market for drone-based logistic services exists and several successful tests have taken place in recent months.

It remains to be seen if a significant market presence will be established (for further details please see "New legislative framework for civil drones in Germany?)."

For further information on this topic please contact Andreas Fuchs at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (afuchs@arneckesibeth.com). The Arnecke Sibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.

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