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French Civil Aviation Authority authorises French postal service to operate a commercial drone delivery route

The General Directorate for Civil Aviation (DGAC) has authorised DPDgroup, the international express subsidiary of Le Groupe La Poste, to operate a regular commercial line in the Provence region of France.

Following two years of tests, crowned with success, DPDgroup, GeoPost's international parcel delivery network and international express subsidiary of Le Groupe La Poste, received authorisation from the General Directorate for Civil Aviation to deliver parcels using drones on a regular 15km route.

For the first time worldwide, a regular commercial route makes it possible to deliver parcels by drone.

Once a week, the DPDgroup drone travels between Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Beaume and Pourrieres, in south of France (Provence region). The route makes it possible to delivery items to a cut-off incubator of companies including a dozen start-ups specialized in technology. Their parcels now delivered by Chronopost and DPD France will be sent by drone from the Pick-up point in Saint-Maximin.

This represent a new way of addressing the issue of last-mile deliveries, especially when it comes to areas that are difficult to access.

For both the departure and arrival of the drone, a delivery terminal is used to secure the parcel loading phases, from take-off to landing and placement of the parcel.

The terminal features:

- a structure protecting access to the drone during landing and take-off phases,
- an automated carriage system for transporting the parcel,
- an electronics system devoted to the safety of handling operations around the drone

A long-standing project

It was back in June 2014 that DPDgroup, in partnership with Atechsys, an SME based in south of France, begin conducting tests to develop the drone. After numerous tests and over 600 hours of flight time, the DPDgroup drone demonstrated, in September 2015, its ability to fly in complete autonomy as it transported a parcel weighing 1.5kg over 14km.

These tests validate the approach chosen by DPDgroup aiming to use drones to access cut-off areas (mountains, islands, rural areas, etc.) or areas that are difficult to access.

The first commercial line represents a new step in the program being led by DPDgroup. After the testing phase, the experimentation phase on the regular route can now begin.

Technical features:

- Range: up to 20km
- Payload: up to 3kg
- Max speed: 30km/h
- Navigation system capable of transmitting up to 50km
- 6 electric rotors, carbon fibre chassis
- Latest-generation embedded electronics
- On-board GPS and camera with live data stream
- Redundant electronics
- Automatic parachute (detection of anomalies during flight and automatic deployment in case of fall)

About DPDgroup

DPDgroup is the second largest international parcel delivery network in Europe. DPDgroup combines innovative technologies and local expertise to provide simple, flexible services for both senders and recipients. Through its Predict service, DPDgroup has established new service standards by placing customers? at the centre of the delivery process. With 60,000 experts and a network of over 26,000 pick-up points, DPDgroup delivers 3.6 million parcels in 230 countries every day, through its four brands: DPD, Chronopost, SEUR and Interlink Express.

DPDgroup is the parcel delivery network of GeoPost, which reported revenues of ?5.7 billion this year. GeoPost is a holding company owned by Le Groupe La Poste.

About Atechsys and the centre for studying and testing autonomous vehicles (CEEMA)

Atechsys was founded on the idea that each application will require a specific drone. At a time when off-the-shelf drones are being produced, Atechsys develops the technological building blocks which, when assembled, create a drone that is perfectly suited to the customer's specifications. This is what is called the third generation drone. Such a unique positioning on the market, combined with the fact it has full control over the value chain, puts Atechsys in a position to let its products fly. With nine employees and Euro 650,000 in revenues in 2013, Atechsys features among the leading companies in the professional civil drone market.

CEEMA is the leading civil drone testing centre in Europe. Founded in 2008, this 65-hectare aeronautical platform has become a standard-setter in its field. The centre boasts a reserved flight area for testing drones weighing up to 150kg. In 2010, CEEMA set up its first business incubator devoted to civil and drone applications. Accredited by the French government in 2013, this ecosystem that is both stimulating and reassuring for entrepreneurs is now home to 15 companies and has created thirty or so long-term jobs.


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