A small unmanned aerial vehicle flew a 6.6-pound package of medicine across a river today as part of research by the German delivery giant DHL into the use of drones. A company spokesman told the Associated Press that this was part of preliminary research and that the company is exploring how drones could be used to deliver urgent packages to areas which are difficult to access with traditional transport.
This follows the news from last week that Amazon is working on a delivery service, dubbed Prime Air, which CEO Jeff Bezos says could be used to help customers get their purchases in half and hour or less. The Verge also broke the news that UPS has been researching the potential of delivery drones, and FedEx founder Fred Smith has made his interest in this technology public for several years. In the United States, however, all commercial drone use is currently illegal, with the FAA mandated to issue regulations by the end of 2015.
DHL's announcement is not particularly surprising. As drone expert Ryan Calo told The Verge last week, "If you want to compete in logistics and delivery, drones and unmanned robots have to be part of the conversation about where things are headed."
A company spokesperson issued this statement to The Verge:
"The idea of using drones for parcel delivery is not new. Deutsche Post DHL also has its dedicated research project, in which DHL is testing a so-called parcel copter. In the context of this future-oriented innovation project, we are considering particularly urgent deliveries such as drug supply or deliveries via parcel copter to areas that are geographically difficult to access. However, we do not have specific plans to use the parcel copter in our regular parcel delivery operations at present."