FTW Pick: Drones cleared for factory delivery take-off

A drone doing in-plant deliveries at ZF in Germany.

Automotive components manufacturer ZF is the first German company to receive official approval for automated drone flights over factory premises.

A drone prototype has started flying spare parts such as sensors or control cards from the central warehouse to workshops on delivery routes of up to a kilometre and on multiple storeys of the building. The six-motor drone can lift up to five kilograms – or three kilograms of goods after taking into account the grippers and transport box.

This is sufficient for the vast majority of spare parts and tools that need to be transported on company premises, according to ZF. For safety the 30 km/h hexacopter mainly flies over the roofs of the plant buildings and only crosses driveways and sidewalks where there is no alternative. The rechargeable battery provides 30 to 40 minutes of flying time.

“We still need to make some adjustments to achieve a completely smooth flight before our delivery drone can be permanently integrated into the logistics process chain,” said Matthias Haberstroh, head of Supply Chain Management at ZF’s Commercial Vehicle Technology division.

“The transport system was extensively tested by our supplier, but we still had to further test a number of different navigation sensors on site in Friedrichshafen which also ensure precise positioning between the plant halls.”





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