Will drones soon deliver parcels to the front door?

A drone hums in the sky. She stays in the air. Then she ropes down a plastic bag, slowly. It includes burgers and fries. A vision of the future? no In the Icelandic capital Reykjavík it is possible to have lunch delivered via drone. The island nation’s unstable weather makes it particularly good for finding out how to use drones for delivery, says Maron Kristófersson the daily newspaper “Fréttablaðið”. He is the boss of the Icelandic online delivery service “Aha”, which is behind the project.

Elsewhere in the world, companies are also experimenting with drone delivery. The Amazon group has announced, to test deliveries with drones to end customers in two cities in the USA before the end of this year. DHL developed the “parcelcopter”. However, the DHL drone can be used sensibly for transporting goods to areas that are difficult to access, the company writes on his website. DHL also criticizes that there is “unrealistic hype” surrounding the drone technology industry.

Delivery with drones in Germany?

In fact, it is unlikely that there will soon be masses of drones whizzing through the air anywhere in the world and dropping packages in front of people’s front doors or balconies. Because the technology is neither suitable for the masses nor practical, say many experts. In Germany in particular, the law leaves little room for drone deliveries.

“The use of drones only makes sense to a limited extent,” said a spokeswoman for the Federal Association of Parcel & Express Logistics (Biek) at the request of the editorial network Germany (RND) and gave reasons. Technically, drones are hardly able to transport “significant weights”. Drones are therefore not suitable for logistics companies that want to deliver large numbers of customers with parcels of very different sizes and weights. However, it is conceivable to use drones to transport paper documents, organs or emergency medication.

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Research around drones

A project was started near the town of Hecklingen in Saxony-Anhalt in mid-October that is testing exactly this. Researchers at the University of Halle want to testhow well drones are suited to delivering medicines to patients’ front yards. Tablets or cough syrup lower the flying objects via cable winch or drop packages that are equipped with a mini parachute. “Medical care is to be improved, especially in rural areas,” says Franziska Fink, research associate in the project for the “pharmacy drone app”.

Also scientists from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences try since this yearwhether a combination of drones and cargo bikes can help to better supply people in rural areas with everyday goods.

Just a “niche solution”

Gerrit Heinemann writes in his book Der Neue Online-Handel about “whether delivery by drone in densely populated metropolitan areas is a solution suitable for mass business”. There are scenarios “in which the drone can be an everyday alternative to a car or bicycle”. As examples, Heinemann, who is a business administration professor at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, cites particularly time-critical shipments or deliveries to areas that are difficult to access.


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When traffic is backed up in the big city and a delivery has to arrive very urgently or when transporting groceries to a hut in the mountains, the use of drones could make sense. However, Heinemann’s conclusion is: Drone delivery remains a “niche solution”.

Legal situation in Germany

In addition to the technology, there is another reason for this: the legal situation in Germany. “Delivering with drones is possible. But there are very, very strict guidelines,” says Olga Stepanova, specialist lawyer for information technology law at the Frankfurt law firm Winheller. The expert refers to the air traffic regulations (§ 21h, paragraph 3, no. 7). Among other things, it regulates the cases in which drones may fly over residential properties.

This is not a problem if the owner agrees. In addition, drones may fly over residential properties without permission if they weigh up to 250 grams, cannot transmit radio signals from third parties and cannot record photos, videos or sounds. A live stream from a drone camera to your own smartphone is also not permitted due to the possibility of temporarily saving parts of it.

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Regulations related to drones

If none of this is the case, it becomes complicated to use a drone for delivery. Most drones weighing over 250 grams will need to at the Federal Aviation Authority be registered. In addition, pilots must complete the EU certificate of competence.

A special permit must be obtained from a state aviation authority for the use of drones that fly outside the field of vision of the pilot or drop objects. Both are usually the case when delivering.

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“The basic idea of ​​the Air Traffic Ordinance is that as a drone pilot I shouldn’t be able to fly over someone else’s property and violate privacy in the process,” explains Stepanova. The ordinance also aims to prevent physical injuries caused by collisions with drones, which is why it contains some distance rules. But technology can break. Anyone who wants to use drones commercially must therefore insure their use accordingly. Otherwise it can get expensive.

Deliver legally with drones

But how would a legally flawless delivery with drones to private households be possible? Lawyer Stepanova cites the example of delivering to a remote home so the drone doesn’t have to fly over other private property to get there. Conversely, delivery in the big city is hardly possible. Unless the drone, including the goods, weighs less than 250 grams and does not record anything. “The delivery of medicines would be conceivable, for example,” says the expert.

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Even if drones are no longer science fiction, delivering goods with them will probably not be part of everyday life in this country anytime soon.

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