Urban air mobility (UAM) developer Volocopter and international logistics company DB Schenker announced that they have conducted a joint static proof of concept (PoC) at Messe Stuttgart for VoloDrone ground operations in logistic centres. 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, realising automation and sustainability ambitions in supply chains.
Christian Bauer, CCO of Volocopter, said, “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.
Erik Wirsing, Global Head of Innovation at DB Schenker, said, “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 of autonomous mobile robotics. Once it is finalised, the blueprint will be available for project partners under a non-disclosure agreement.