Drones and Autonomous Vehicles
Mercedes Equips Electric Van with Drones Daimler AG

Mercedes Equips Electric Van with Drones

“We want to make vans an intelligent, connected data center on wheels,” the company said. 

In an effort to increase delivery times for online order, Mercedes-Benz is looking at mounting automated flying drones onto a new line of electric vans.

The small pilotless aircraft would be part of a suite of on-board systems, including digital sorting equipment, that could cut both costs and delivery times in half for the final portion of a package’s journey, the carmaker said on Sept. 7 at a presentation in Stuttgart, Germany.

The two drones can each fly items weighing as much as 4.4 pounds as far as  6 miles, enabling service to difficult-to-reach to places.

“The business in our sector is changing dramatically, so we’re looking far beyond our core product and getting into new markets,” Volker Mornhinweg, who heads Mercedes’s vans business, said. “We want to make vans an intelligent, connected data center on wheels.”

The drones on the Mercedes concept are fixed to the company's Vision Van's roof above a hatch that opens to the vehicle’s inside. Made of carbon fiber and aluminum, the mini-copters with four propellers measure about 22 inches across.

The van is powered by a 75 kW electric drive system with a range of up to 270 km. Deliveries with the Vision Van are locally emission-free. The electric drive system additionally guarantees that it will remain possible to operate the Vision Van in inner-city zones where the introduction of bans on vehicles with internal combustion engines is planned. The virtually silent electric drive system facilitates late deliveries in residential areas for the purposes of same-day delivery.

"With the Vision Van we are presenting the intelligent, clean and fully interconnected van of the future", says Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. "The Vision Van integrates many concrete concepts for future delivery operations in the urban environment, such as a fully automatic cargo space, autonomously flying delivery drones and innovative communication features."

The aircraft were developed jointly with Swiss partner Matternet, and similar models have already helped carry medicine to people in difficult terrain, Mercedes said.

When a van reaches the area where the drone is supposed to take off, a robotic arm in the cargo area moves parcels inside a special box to the hatch, which opens automatically for the drone to pick up the item. Using GPS, the aircraft flies to a landing spot set by the customer, Mercedes said.

The van is powered by a 75 kW electric drive system with a range of up to 270 km. Deliveries with the Vision Van are locally emission-free. The electric drive system additionally guarantees that it will remain possible to operate the Vision Van in inner-city zones where the introduction of bans on vehicles with internal combustion engines is planned. The virtually silent electric drive system facilitates late deliveries in residential areas for the purposes of same-day delivery.

"With the Vision Van we are presenting the intelligent, clean and fully interconnected van of the future", says Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. "The Vision Van integrates many concrete concepts for future delivery operations in the urban environment, such as a fully automatic cargo space, autonomously flying delivery drones and innovative communication features."

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