It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a yellow quadcopter filled with medicine! On Monday, the folks over at Deutsche Post DHL, the largest logistics company, conducted its first test flight of its “Paketkopter” (as you might have guessed, that means "package copter" in German) in the western city of Bonn, just south of Cologne.
For the test flight, the small quadcopter carried medicine from a pharmacist in Bonn across the Rhine River to the DHL head office in the former German capital. It was a rather short flight: The delivery took roughly two minutes.
But short flights aren't a concern, as the drone is currently concerned with speed. DHL hopes it can deliver urgent goods to difficult-to-reach places in emergency scenarios. According to DW, DHL's drone has a range of 0.6 of a mile and can carry up to 6.6 pounds. Most importantly, it has something Amazon and other American drone delivery services don't: A local permit allowing it to fly up to 300 feet.
Germany is no stranger to do-good drones. Earlier this year, the German railway Deutsche Bahn tested out drone cameras to catch graffiti writers tagging boxcars, which authorities did not appear to be concerned with. The drone laws in Germany remain unclear, but DHL manager Ole Nordhoff remains optimistic, and told The Local that the testing is just the beginning of a research project.
The DHL test popped up shortly after Amazon’s founding CEO Jeff Bezos appeared on 60 Minutes, where he talked about fast delivery drones bringing products to customer’s doorsteps within a 30 minutes of placing an order online. While there are obvious legal barriers in the US—which meant the company had to fly its demos in another country—Bezos hopes the service will materialize by 2018. Between sorting out bird strikes and traffic routes, it's liable to take much longer.
A spokesperson from DHL Germany said the tests with the Paketkopter are ongoing this week in Bonn, though there are no further plans for actual deliveries.