Germany set for first ever drone-based grocery delivery

Two remote districts in the Odenwald region in south Germany will make history as the very first recipients of drone-based grocery deliveries; after drone logistics services provider Wingcopter and its partners announced the launch the pilot project yesterday.

The project, which will also involve the use of electronic cargo bikes, has been given the very original name of “Drohnen-Lastenrad-Express-Belieferung” (“Drone-Cargo Bike Express Delivery”).

We swear we would never have thought of that ourselves.

Working in collaboration with the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS) the project will operate under the codename “LieferMichel” (DeliverMichel; because it is a delivery project that will be carried in in Michelstadt, Hesse in the Odewald region).

It will offer 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 project is being funded to the tune of around 430,000 euros by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) as part of the “Innovative Air Mobility” funding directive.

“We are really proud to pilot LieferMichel, the first drone delivery service for groceries and everyday goods in Germany,” said Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter.

“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.”

Alongside the city of Michelstadt and the university, other partners involved comprise retailer REWE, telecommunications giant Vodafone and cargo bike maker Riese & Müller.

The first beneficiaries will be two the districts of Rehbach and Würzbergm, which are situated well outside Michelstadt. Via the website www.liefermichel.de, they can now 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 desired time.

The orders will be 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, orders for drone delivery will be only be offered by REWE, with other local retailers to be added as the project gathers steam.

“We have been working on the topic of autonomous mobility in the Research & Innovations division for years and always have one goal in mind – to offer our customers new shopping experiences and to make shopping convenient and easy,” said Dr. Robert Zores, Chief Digital Innovation Officer (CDIO) at REWE Digital.

“We are a pioneer and trailblazer in German food retailing. In addition to numerous projects in urban areas, we are also looking forward to testing offers in rural areas and to learning and further developing technology and processes together with the project partners.”

The Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences will be evaluating the service from an economic and ecological perspective, as well as take care of the cargo bike rides, as it boasts of some profound expertise in the field of last-mile logistics with cargo bikes and small electric vehicles (LEV – light electric vehicles).

As explained byDr. Kai-Oliver Schocke, Director of the Research Lab for Urban Transport (ReLUT) at Frankfurt UAS.

“We believe that a drone-based delivery service in rural areas can be a win-win situation,” he said.

“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.”

The villages have been chosen because they have recently found themselves without retail services following the closure of many retail shops in recent years, forcing residents to drive to Michelstadt or other towns to do their shopping – in some cases well over ten kilometres each way.

Now – at least for supplies weighing up to four kilograms at one go – they can have their groceries delivered to them at the click of a keyboard.

Results from Michelstadt will determine whether such a project is a sustainable and scalable business model that can be expanded to improve local supply in other rural regions of Germany.

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