Volocopter has conducted a joint static proof of concept (PoC) at Messe Stuttgart to use its VoloDrone for ground operations in logistic centres, helping to create the first blueprint for electric cargo drone ground operations.

The PoC was completed with DB Schenker and the support of Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistic, which tested how logistics operators can manage automated ground vehicles, personnel, payloads and VoloDrones, to create a safe environment for future operations.

The blueprint derived from these results will be the first-of-its-kind and serve as a basis for integrating VoloDrone operations into logistics networks across the globe.

Christian Bauer, Chief Commercial Officer at Volocopter, said: “By developing a blueprint for VoloDrone operations, Volocopter is leading the way into the next dimension of transport logistics with tangible and operational data backing our service claims. Our work with DB Schenker shows that they are a great investor, a valuable partner, and an enabler for our commercial VoloDrone operations.”

The research teams from Volocopter, DB Schenker, and Fraunhofer IML simulated the VoloDrone integration in a logistics network by examining the ground processes for coding goods, assessing safe cargo loads and goods, testing the automated supply of the drone through autonomous vehicles, and identifying other necessary pre-flight cargo checks.

Following this, the processes for transporting and loading the VoloDrone payload were conducted and examined to identify safe, standard procedures for employees on the ground preparing the VoloDrone for flight.

Erik Wirsing, Global Head of Innovation at DB Schenker, said: “The VoloDrone unlocks new possibilities for the logistics industry and represents a key element for DB Schenker’s innovation and sustainability roadmap for logistics.

“Volocopter’s leadership in this emerging urban air mobility industry is most evident in its practical solutions, customer-centric approach and commitment to bring UAM to life.”

The VoloDrone, Volocopter’s heavy-lift and versatile cargo drone, is battery powered, can transport a 200 kg payload up to 40 km, and is powered by 18 rotors and motors.

Since the beginning of their collaboration in 2019, Volocopter and DB Schenker have been developing the VoloDrone for commercial launch and assessing use cases for business-to-business drone services in logistics.

Volocopter plans to use the VoloDrone for intracity logistics and will operate within the company’secosystem for cities, which will consist of passenger mobility services using its VoloCity and VoloConnect eVTOL aircraft; VoloPort take-off and landing infrastructure and a digital backbone to coordinate and view all operations in real time (VoloIQ).

In May 2020, Volocopter partnered with Near Earth Autonomy to enable beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations with its VoloDrone. A demonstration is planned in Munich next year.