Posti, Sharper Shape and Verkkokauppa experiment with robotic helicopters in e-commerce deliveries
Starting from September 2, Posti will carry out a four-day experiment to test the technology of the future in e-commerce logistics and mail delivery.
In the experiment, Posti will be testing a robotic helicopter (drone, unmanned aerial vehicle) in delivery and transport tasks for the first time in Finland, and for the first time in Europe in an inhabited urban environment. The robotic helicopter will fly in Helsinki, between the mainland and the island of Suomenlinna, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The robotic helicopter will carry parcels to Suomenlinna from September 2 to September 5. The flight distance, on average, between the mainland and Suomenlinna is approximately 4 kilometers. This experiment only includes parcels of suitable dimensions. All other mail, such as letters and publications, will be delivered by boat as usual.
New technologies boost e-commerce
Posti is being modernized, and experiments are part of the process. Together with its customers and partners, Posti develops and tests quick and easy delivery solutions and methods to support e-commerce.
“New technologies make online shopping quicker and easier for both senders and recipients. We want to experiment with different delivery options which are feasible in Finland and increase the customers’ freedom of choice,” says Jukka Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, Parcel and Logistics Services at Posti.
Posti’s partners in the robotic helicopter experiment include Sharper Shape Ltd, which is responsible for the technology and operation of the drone, and Verkkokauppa.com. The experiment has been authorized by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) operating under the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Finland is at the forefront of traffic automation
For automated traffic, Finland constitutes one of the world’s most flexible operating environments. Legislation and the various authorities strongly encourage progress in the field.
“Unmanned aviation is a new and fast-expanding segment which provides brand-new business opportunities. As an aviation authority, Trafi wants to encourage trial projects with unmanned aircraft. Our aim is to create an excellent environment for the testing, development and operation of unmanned aircraft,” says Chief Advisor Jukka Hannola at Trafi.
Posti’s experiment will be carried out as a non-line-of-sight operation in a populated urban environment, which puts high demands on the equipment and control system used. Apart from technical factors, flight safety is based on training and detailed methods of operation.
“We plan the flights as meticulously as manned flights. Safety is our highest priority. Finland is a leading country in this field, and cooperation between the authorities and companies is smooth,” says Tero Heinonen, CEO at Sharper Shape, the company in charge of the flight operations.
The parcels carried by the robotic helicopter in the experiment should have a weight and type suitable for airborne delivery. Only parcels with a weight less than 3 kg will be transported.
“As an innovative company, we absolutely want to be involved in this interesting experiment and gain experience in new ways to deliver parcels to our customers. Furthermore, it is great that our customers have the opportunity to try out new technologies with us. Delivery speed is an important competitive factor, even in hard-to-reach areas,” says Esa Hjerppe, Web Sales and Marketing Director at Verkkokauppa.com.
More information: www.sharperpost.com
Media from flights: photos
Posti develops not only its delivery methods but also the e-commerce background processes. An automated robot-assisted warehouse to open in the fall of 2015 at Posti Logistics Center at Vantaa will enable even same-day dispatches for web stores. Also in the fall, the logistics center at Lieto will adopt a new sorting system based on next-generation technology designed specially for e-commerce. Posti’s automation and robotics-related services include Parcel Point, which was introduced in 2011 and is now the most popular way or receiving products shopped for online.
Ministry of Transport and Communications promoting robotics is one of the Finnish Government’s spearhead projects. In the context of this project, the Ministry of Transport and Communications handles matters related to traffic automation. The ministry has prepared a program to promote automation. The aim of the program is to make Finnish legislation among the most liberal in the world with regard to land, sea and air transport. Announcement by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) promotes safe and eco-friendly traffic and carries out official duties related to the traffic system. Trafi is the Finnish aviation authority responsible for aviation safety in general. It also promotes environmental friendliness in aviation, and handles matters related to air transport and its smooth running. Trafi looks at aviation-related issues from the point of view of both air passengers, airlines, amateur aviators, and airport operators.
Sharper Shape Ltd is a Finnish startup company established in 2013. It uses robotic helicopters to collect measurement data to help customer companies determine powerline maintenance needs, for example.
In its experiment, Posti will use a robotic helicopter, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), called Next Eagle, designed by Sharper Shape especially for Finnish conditions. The helicopter involves several technologically advanced solutions which enable safe flying in challenging conditions. A laser-based observation system which automatically connects with the helicopter steering system maximizes safety as it prevents collisions. The connection between the remote operator and helicopter is based on multiple parallel communications links, ensuring that the connection is never lost. In the experiment, the system has been adapted to Posti’s transport operations. Further information on the experiment can be found at www.sharperpost.com.
Verkkokauppa.com is the largest and most popular webstore in Finland. Its customers at Suomenlinna will have an opportunity to participate in the experiment and have their parcels delivered to them by air. During the experiment, selected parcels of a suitable weight and type will depart from the observation deck of the Verkkokauppa.com store at Jätkäsaari, Helsinki, three times a day. The public is welcome to watch the flights. The flight schedules can be found at posti.fi/lennot (in Finnish). Recipients of the parcels will be notified personally when their parcels arrive.
If the drone cannot fly because of bad weather, the parcels will be delivered onboard the Suomenlinna ferry as usual.