While DHL started with an in-house drone program, they eventually partnered with existing drone companies to capitalize on their expertise. These partnerships included the Chinese drone/eVTOL firm eHang
and later with the German delivery drone manufacturer Wingcopter
. The last generation Parcelcopter you see in the image above is a rebranded Wingcopter 178.
With all the news and partnerships, one might assume all is well for the delivery giant. But a new report by the German news outlet WELT
says that the program is being shut down. This is despite DHL releasing more press material for the DHL Parcelcopter just days earlier
“We are not continuing the Parcelcopter project,”
Alexander Edenhofer, a DHL spokesman, told Benedikt Fuest of WELT. They plan to discontinue their partnership with Wingcopter as well citing that the economics of the program not working out. DHL’s partnership with Wingcopter was undergoing trials in Tanzania for medical deliveries
This news is revealing in two fronts.
- DHL finds last-mile delivery using drones unfeasible to scale, despite Google Wing and others still continuing with their programs.
- DHL is instead trying out middle-mile delivery using drones
The second point comes is supported by DHL’s new partnerships with Bulgarian Drone manufacturer Dronamics
, and their purchase of 12 battery powered long range aircraft from Eviation
. These have considerably larger payload capacity in the order of hundreds or thousands of kg compared to Wingcopter’s 6 kg and are better suited for transporting large amounts of goods between two delivery hubs.
This points to an interesting divergence in the drone delivery market. While Google Wing is doing point to point deliveries from a centralized hub, others are interested in the economic benefits of middle-mile deliveries. The models are partly exclusive - Wing’s drones aren’t suited for large payload capacity and volume and vice-versa. It is conceivable that both models find their niche and flourish independently for their respective business cases. This space will be interesting to watch out and see how the evolution goes.