Malines is betting on drone delivery
The company ‘Drone-future’ wants to start a pilot project in Malines (Belgium) early next year to deliver parcels by a drone. “We want to be the first in the world to come out with a system that makes it possible, in a commercial and practical way, to have packages delivered autonomously by a drone in a smart box”, says Kris Rottiers, one of the founders of Drone-future.
According to Rottiers, it is the smart box that makes the difference with existing initiatives. Instead of just ‘dropping’ the packages in the garden, the Drone-future system provides an installation at the top of buildings where the drone can land on a platform. There the weatherproof box containing the package is disconnected from the drone.
Via an elevator the box lowers to just before the smart box. The package is pushed into the smart box. Possible returns can then in turn be pushed into the box, which then goes up again and is linked back to the drone.
Return shipments possible
“87% of the packages people order are compatible with our system”, says Kris Rottiers, who founded Drone-future together with Ivan Peeters and Bart Goovaerts. “The drone can carry a weight of up to 15 to 20 kilograms. The big advantage is that with this system return shipments are possible. The technology can also be applied to apartments, row houses and industrial buildings.”
First tests in 2019
In a building on one of the industrial estates around the city, the prototype is finished and the installation is tested. Soon there will be tests in real conditions. Discussions are also being held with the city council and a number of companies in the Malines industrial zone.
“I think that we will be able to do the first tests with these local companies at the beginning of 2019. We chose Malines because the city is strongly committed to innovative projects. The goal is to roll out this Flemish technology worldwide afterwards.”
Alderman, Stefaan Deleus (CD&V), responsible for Smart City, believes that the city should put its shoulders to the wheel. “The delivery drone has many advantages. It is environmentally friendly, ensures fewer vans in traffic and therefore fewer traffic jams and offers the possibility to deliver parcels in places that are difficult to reach.”
Drone-future is not the only one who is investing in drone deliveries. Worldwide companies are putting their money in developing flying robots to make deliveries. Among the best-known companies are big players, like Amazon, DHL, UPS (the largest and oldest courier service in the world) and Domino’s Pizza (they delivered the first pizza by drone in 2016).
UPS is using the top of its 66.000 vans as a mini-helipad, while the online retailer, Amazon, is testing Amazon Prime Air in several international locations to get goods to customers in 30 minutes or less.
Not a priority for boost
In March, the ambitious Chinese express operator, SF Express, obtained the first drone operator license in China and Ireland AN Post made the first successful delivery of a package by drone in July of this year.
For the Belgian post group, bpost, the delivery of parcels via drone is not a priority. “In Belgium this will be difficult because our country is very urbanized. We do not see this as the next step”, said CEO, Koen Van Gerven, last year to the economic TV channel, Kanaal Z.