A first prototype is already in use at ZF Friedrichshafen : it flies sensors, control cards and other supplies from the warehouse to the maintenance workshops on the company premises. The test is soon expected to go into regular operation and thus save a lot of time and money – for example, when parts are delivered into the upper floors of buildings. The six-engine drone can handle up to five kilograms of weight, three kilograms of which consist of payload. For safety reasons, it only crosses roads and sidewalks if absolutely necessary. Otherwise, it flies over the roofs of the factory buildings.
Several adjustments must still be made in order to permanently integrate the drone, says Matthias Haberstroh from ZF. They include testing the navigation sensors to ensure that GPS positioning between the factory buildings functions more precisely. Other companies could also use the delivery drones in the medium term, according to ZF. Looking further ahead, it should also be possible to operate drones outside protected factory premises.
Time is obviously of the essence in this case. As the industry magazine Ngin Mobility reports, China is set to become the world market leader in logistics drones, while Germany continues to grapple with the issue. The Chinese online marketplace Alibaba is already working with drones that pick up meals and packages and fly them to delivery points. Human drivers nevertheless still bring them the so-called ‘last mile’ to the customer's doorstep.