Wingcopter and the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS) have launched the “DroLEx – Drohnen-Lastenrad-Express-Belieferung” (Drone-Cargo Bike Express Delivery) project.
Under the name “LieferMichel”, the pilot project offers residents of remote districts in Michelstadt the opportunity to have groceries and consumer goods delivered to their homes quickly and emission-free by Wingcopter delivery drone and cargo bike.
The drone deliveries are intended to sustainably improve local supply in the region. The project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) as part of the “Innovative Air Mobility” funding directive with a total of around €430,000.
Initially, the areas Rehbach and Würzberg, well outside Michelstadt, will be served.
Residents of these districts can order everyday goods such as non-perishable milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables, canned food and many other non-refrigerated products and have them delivered to their homes at a set time.
The orders are flown by Wingcopter to set landing points just outside of the villages, from where they are transported to the end customers by electric cargo bike.
To start with, a wide range of products from the local REWE store will be available for selection. Other local retailers will be added to the platform as the project progresses.
The pilot project is being scientifically supported by the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, which is evaluating the service from an economic and ecological perspective. The Frankfurt UAS also takes care of the cargo bike rides. It has prior expertise in the field of last-mile logistics with cargo bikes and light electric vehicles (LEV).
Alongside the city of Michelstadt and REWE, Vodafone and Riese & Müller are associated project partners. Vodafone provides the mobile communications infrastructure for Wingcopter drones to have a secure and stable connection to the ground station throughout the flight. Riese & Müller produces and provides the cargo bikes.
In the villages, many local retailers have recently closed, forcing residents to drive to Michelstadt or other towns to do their shopping – in some cases well over 10 kilometers each way.
Especially for smaller errands weighing up to 4 kilograms, LieferMichel users can now leave their cars behind. Flying with the all-electric delivery drones is also more environmentally friendly than traveling by car.
Based on the trial in Michelstadt, a sustainable and scalable business model is to be developed to improve local supply in other rural regions of Germany as well through fast, ecologically reasonable and reliable delivery of everyday goods by drone.
Although many smaller stores have disappeared in rural areas in recent years, food delivery services that deliver orders within a few minutes have so far been limited to urban areas. The companies believe the project holds enormous potential.
The project will run until the end of 2023 and be continued if it proves successful.
Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter, commented; “We are really proud to pilot LieferMichel, the first drone delivery service for groceries and everyday goods in Germany. Our biggest goal is to gain experience and evaluate, together with the residents, an environmentally friendly and efficient service that creates real added value for the population in rural areas. We are deeply grateful for the hospitality of the people of Odenwald and the openness with which they have welcomed the project and the LieferMichel team.”
“We believe that a drone-based delivery service in rural areas can be a win-win situation: Residents benefit from better supply options, retailers can increase their customer catchment area without having to set up delivery services themselves. We also expect ecological benefits, as trips for smaller errands in particular can be substituted in this way,” explained Prof. Dr. Kai-Oliver Schocke, Director of the Research Lab for Urban Transport (ReLUT) at Frankfurt UAS.