The French postal service, Le Groupe La Poste, has been given the go-ahead to begin a weekly drone delivery service.
The French postal service will soon begin drone deliveries, becoming the first federal postal service in the world to do so. The drones, operated by the DPDgroup, will carry parcels on a nine-mile route following approval from the French aviation authority. The delivery path will stretch between Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Beaume and Pourrières in the region of Provence.
Delivery by drone is one of the most eagerly anticipated advances in this new connected world of ours. For that reason small steps tend to make big headlines, even when they are little more than publicity stunts designed to sustain interest and generate media hype. The announcement from the French postal service appears to be genuine progress, though, the fruits of a pilot project two years in the making.
Rural drone deliveries starting to emerge
That drone deliveries have started to emerge in rural locations should come as no surprise. Areas free of tall buildings and concentrated populations are always going to be more favorable for testing in the eyes of aviation authorities.
But these areas also best highlight the obvious benefits of aerial deliveries. The route being established in southern France will enable the easy delivery of items to several cut-off start-ups and established businesses. The potential to reconnect remote locations is even greater when applied at a national scale, as we’ve seen from Zipline’s delivery of medical supplies in Rwanda.
DPD delivery terminals offer a solution to problem of the ‘last mile’
There are a host of issues aviation regulators and companies proposing to deliver via drone, such as Amazon, need to work out. These include liability, beyond line-of-sight flight and the supervision of more than one drone at a time by a single operator. But perhaps the biggest challenge facing the concept of widespread drone delivery is that of ‘the last mile’.
While much of the technology required for autonomous flight and obstacle avoidance over long distances is already in place, a lack of infrastructure and the potential for human interference are problems that need to be solved.
Speaking exclusively to Internet of Business, Ben Brautigam, CEO and co-founder of drone software startup Airnest, also noted that the appropriate designation of airspace is vital moving forwards:
“One of the biggest challenges right now surrounds airspace management and infrastructure,” he said. “While the technology is very close, the right system needs to be in place in order to navigate thousands of drones to and from their destinations while ensuring the safety of other aircraft – manned and unmanned.”
“A key focus is to appropriately layer low altitude airspace to accommodate high-speed drone transit and other commercial applications simultaneously. Fortunately, there are many companies and agencies working in concert to solve this problem.”
DPD’s solution to the problem of ‘the last mile’ is a bespoke delivery terminal for both the departure and arrival of the drone. It’s used to secure the drone and parcel during take-off and landing, and features an automated carriage system for transporting the parcel and an electronics system devoted to the safety of handling operations around the drone.
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