Logistics firm DHL is using a drone to fly parcels to the German island of Juist, in what it says is the first time an unmanned aircraft has been authorized to deliver goods in Europe.
The company, owned by Germany’s Deutsche Post, joins the likes of Amazon.com and Google in testing the potential for drones to deliver parcels and packages.
Its drone – the “parcelcopter” – can fly at up to 65 km (40 miles) an hour. It will deliver medication and other urgently needed goods to the car-free island of Juist, off Germany’s northern coast, at times when other modes of transport such as flights or ferries are not operating.
If the trial is successful, the craft could be used to deliver such packages to other remote areas or in emergencies.
However, critics of delivery drones have raised concerns over privacy and whether the technology is safe, saying drones could hit other aircraft or even people.
For the Juist project, Deutsche Post has received permission from the German transport ministry and air traffic control authority for a restricted flight area that will be used only by its parcelcopter. The drone will also not fly over any houses, a spokeswoman for DHL Parcel told Reuters.
The craft has four rotors, weighs around 5 kg and can carry loads of up to 1.2 kg. Its flight is completely automated, although it will be monitored from the ground and, depending on weather conditions, the 12 km trip to Juist will take 15-30 minutes.
Flights to the North Sea island, home to around 1,700 people, will start from Friday, weather permitting, and will continue until the middle or end of October, the spokeswoman said.