39-40/2016 A star-studded drone
We have to admit one thing about the trucking industry – it’s innovative. For a long time it looked as if there was no alternative to the conventional diesel engine, but now a lot of money is being invested in research and entire delivery concepts are being redesigned. Mercedes-Benz’s latest project shows that the industry is prepared to go beyond the manufacture of trucks and delivery vehicles, its traditional activities. At the beginning of September the Stuttgart-based German enterprise presented it so-called vision van.
It’s an electric van, approximately the size of a conventional delivery vehicle, and according to Mercedes-Benz it can cover 270 km in one trip. It has been designed for last-mile deployment. Growing urbanisation, the banishing of diesel engines from many city centres and the increasing importance of e-commerce activities have made the concept interesting. So far, so good.
What’s new is that an established car-maker such as Mercedes-Benz is also seeking a role in the reorganisation of parcel delivery services. The corporation has presented an idea of a networked freight-loading system. It should enable a vehicle to be loaded in one single process. Pre-packed parcels are stacked onto a rolltainer that can be integrated into a delivery vehicle. Intelligent technology installed in the vehicle recognises the next address on the route, picks the right parcel out of the pile shortly before the next stop and places it in a special gated space ready for the driver to take out and deliver. All he has to do is pick up the parcel and re-sort the remaining consignments. This will save time.
Another development that is being tackled is distribution by drone directly from a delivery vehicle. The airborne unit would dock on the roof of the vehicle and deliver the goods independently to the final recipient, whilst the driver could already be delivering the next parcel. The drone receives the parcel from the mobile storage facility through an opening in the roof.
In order to realise this vision Mercedes-Benz has taken a stake in the USA’s Matternet corporation, producer of the M2 drone. The manufacturer has said that the unit can carry a 2 kg parcel over a distance of 20 km with one battery charge.
Delivery by drone had seemed the preserve of the major players in the e-commerce and logistics segments so far. This perception would appear to be history.