If you’re waiting at home for a drone-delivered package, best check the weather report. Deliveries might be late because companies seemed to have overlooked one important obstacle: the wind.
Deutsche Post DHL was set to deliver medicines on an unmanned aircraft – called the parcelcopter – to the remote island of Juist, off the coast of Germany, on Friday. But a spokesperson for the German delivery firm told CNBC that strong winds had prevented its journey.
The 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) journey from a harbour in Norddeich, north Germany, would have marked the first real-life drone mission in Europe, with the unmanned aircraft operating outside of a pilot’s field of vision. The planned flight was completely autonomous, without the need for a pilot at a base station.
Deutsche Post DHL said it had rescheduled the flight for Monday, weather permitting. It added that it had secured approval to fly its yellow craft from the relevant German air authorities.
DHL winning race
Hype surrounding drone deliveries was ignited after e-commerce giant Amazon announced it was testing unmanned aircraft for use in its operations. Deutsche Post DHL’s CEO Frank Appel told CNBC in January that it was testing its own drones, as the race for aerial dominance continued.
Amazon, DHL and Google – which said it was testing drones in Australia – are all trying to disrupt the traditional way parcels are delivered. The German company’s planned real-life mission indicates that it is ahead in the race against its America rivals.
Approval by regulators was seen as a major stumbling block to drone deliveries, but authorities have begun to slowly allow the use of unmanned aircraft in certain situations.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorized six filmmaking companies to use drones in a limited way, while earlier this year utility company San Diego Gas & Electric got the green light to use the aircraft in research and testing flights. It marks a shift away from a blanket ban on unmanned aircraft and could pave the way for further liberalization of the rules.
Now all the companies have to do is find a way to control the weather.