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August 12, 2015

DPDgroup, the parcel delivery arm of GeoPost, announced in July that it had developed a new drone delivery terminal that ensured safer operating standards when taking off, landing and delivering parcels by drone. This innovation came on the back of more than a year’s worth of testing at an exclusive drone testing facility, Centre d’Etudes et d’Essais pour Modeles Autonomes (CEEMA), in France. To read more about DPD’s drone tests click here.

Jean-Luc Defrance, executive vice-president, process, IT, digital, DPDgroup, and Moustapha Kasbari, director, CEEMA/Atechsys, explain the group’s thinking behind the drone testing. 

Why is DPDgroup interested in developing drone technology?
Jean-Luc Defrance: We launched the DPD drone project to study the potential of this new technology. We are open to innovation and we should keep an open eye on what is happening in our environment. Our thinking has led us to conduct tests to estimate the drone’s capacity (operation range, transportable weight) and to understand the safety issues around it. Our objective is to learn and to develop solutions. 

How will DPDgroup use delivery drones to improve its operations?
JLD: We don’t believe that drone technology is the future of the express delivery industry, but it is certainly a part of it. An economic use of drones for parcel delivery is not a possibility today as there are still a lot of technical and legal issues to solve before even thinking about developing a business offer.

Could you tell us more about the drone delivery terminal?
JLD: Security is one of our main concerns and our innovative delivery terminal allows for secured operation phases (take-off, landing) without any direct interaction with the equipment, unlike standard landing platforms.

What role has CEEMA/Atechsys played in developing the drones?
Moustapha Kasbari: DPDgroup asked CEEMA/Atechsys to assist them in its examination of drone technology. CEEMA/Atechsys participates in the project by providing its expertise in the development of technology such as electronics and composite materials, and also by performing trials. We are able to achieve this thanks to our unique expertise and structure in Europe.

What considerations have to be given regarding French airspace?
JLD: There is a specific legal framework in place for the use of drones and this technology must be regulated if we want to have the safest use possible. For our testing, we are working with a unique structure in Europe in CEEMA/Atechsys – which has its own proper flight zone and all the required authorizations. It is the ideal testing structure and area.

In France especially, drone use is highly controlled and requires an individual agreement from the DGAC (French department of civil aviation). Flight zones are strictly regulated and a trial outside CEEMA’s testing area would require specific authorization, which is a long process. The European Union’s regulation is not too restrictive but it relies on each country’s policy in terms of drone use.

Are there plans to roll out the program to other countries?
JLD: Right now we are focusing on technical and legal issues before even thinking of developing a business offer and extending it in Europe.

Interview by Daniel Symonds

August 12, 2015


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