DB Schenker, the logistics department of the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, announced it will use the Volocopter VoloDrone for lifting heavy cargo in a business-to-business fashion. Volocopter, the German eVTOL manufacturer that is building electric multirotors for manned and unmanned purposes, presented their cargo-hauling, 18-rotor-wielding VoloDrone in November 2019. It was marketed with different possible uses in mind, showing a crop-spraying version, a drone carrying construction materials in an underslung net and a more conventional package-carrying scenario.
Schenker, who in February of this year was part of a $103 million funding round for Volocopter, wants to use the drone for transporting heavy packages B2B. The VoloDrone is capable of carrying 200kg (440lb) over a range of 40km (25mi). This puts it in a different market than Amazon‘s and Walmart‘s recent endeavors in drone-delivery. Amazon and Walmart focus specifically on delivering small packages from their warehouses or stores directly to consumers.
While full EASA certification is expected in 2023, Schenker and Volocopter expect it will be possible to apply for a permit on a case-by-case basis sooner. This should be easy to achieve with basic simulator training.
The logistics opportunity in the urban market is just as big as the passenger market. When people associate logistics with drones they always think of the 3 kg, last-mile delivery to the doorstep. It’s the middle mile, not the last mile, that we are serving.
Any Schenker employee in a distribution centre will be able to operate this. It will be as common as having a driving licence.
– Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter
It is unknown when or where the first flights will start to take place. Volocopter is looking forward to gaining vital practical flying experience in the tests which it can then leverage in its air taxi service, for which it started selling the first tickets last week.