Air mobility company Volocopter successfully conducted its first public flight using an electric heavy-lift drone to carry a payload through the air to demonstrate potential new supply chain transportation methods.
The demonstration flight comes at a time when the supply chain is struggling to stay afloat due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing problem with not even truck drivers to match demand. While companies are working on alternate means to the trucking problem with the race to develop autonomous trucking, another potential solution is through unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
At ITS World Congress 2021, Volocopter’s VoloDrone demonstrated the progress it has made on its autonomous cargo drone in a three minute test flight that left homePORT Hamburg and reached a maximum altitude of 72 ft.
The heavy-lift drone was equipped with a load-box between its landing gear and a Euro-pallet sized cargo was loaded onto the aircraft. VoloDrone brought the payload to a DB Schenker Cargo bike and landed safely where the payload was transferred successfully. The bike then delivered the cargo to its final destination completing an entirely electric, multimodal last-mile delivery.
VoloDrone is designed to carry any of the six International Organization for Standardization (ISO) pallet sizes that weigh up to 440 lb and travel more than 24 miles. The aircraft will also include autonomous beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities.
Volocopter said it plans to use its UAS vehicles to travel both cargo and transport passengers via the area. The VoloDrone would be deployed where conventional transportation options are not available or have reached their limits. The company is also developing ports for these aircraft as well as digital infrastructure to support the services.
Volocopter has been testing its UAS aircraft since 2019 with regular test flights being conducted at various airfields in Germany. However, this recent test was the first carrying a payload in a public urban environment.