Wingcopter and Frankfurt UAS launch drone delivery in rural Germany


Wingcopter and the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences have launched what they call the DroLEx (Drohnen-Lastenrad-Express-Belieferung) project. 

Translated in english to ‘Drone-Cargo Bike Express Delivery’, the pilot project lets residents in remote districts of Michelstadt, located in the central German state of Hesse, have groceries and consumer goods delivered to their homes by Wingcopter delivery drone and cargo bike. The project aims to sustainably improve local supply in the region. It has received backing worth 430,000 euros from the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport.

Initially, the two districts of Rehbach and Würzberg, located well outside Michelstadt, will be served. Residents can order goods such as non-perishable milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables, canned food and other non-refrigerated products online. The orders are flown by Wingcopter to set landing points just outside of the villages, from where they are transported to the end customers by electric cargo bike.

Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter, said: “We are really proud to pilot LieferMichel, the first drone delivery service for groceries and everyday goods in Germany. Our biggest goal is to gain experience and evaluate, together with the residents, an environmentally friendly and efficient service that creates real added value for the population in rural areas. We are deeply grateful for the hospitality of the people of Odenwald and the openness with which they have welcomed the project and the LieferMichel team.”

Run in partnership with the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS), it will run the cargo bike operation. According to Wingcopter, this is due to Frankfurt UAS’ expertise in last-mile logistics with cargo bikes and small electric vehicles.

Dr. Kai-Oliver Schocke, director of the Research Lab for Urban Transport at Frankfurt UAS, said “We believe that a drone-based delivery service in rural areas can be a win-win situation: Residents benefit from better supply options, retailers can increase their customer catchment area without having to set up delivery services themselves. We also expect ecological benefits, as trips for smaller errands in particular can be substituted in this way.”

Alongside the city of Michelstadt and supermarket chain REWE, Vodafone and Riese & Müller are onboard as project partners. Vodafone provides the mobile communications infrastructure so that the Wingcopter drones have a secure connection to the ground station when in-flight. Riese & Müller produce the electric cargo bikes.

Michael Reinartz, head of Innovation at Vodafone Germany: “We are delighted that the DroLEx team is relying on Vodafone’s mobile network to fly the LieferMichel drone,  underscoring the crucial role that mobile technology plays in commercial drone flight. After all, especially over longer distances, only a highly responsive mobile network offers the necessary reliability to enable automated drone flights – and thus innovative applications such as food delivery by drone.”

The project will initially run until the end of 2023 and will be continued if it proves successful.

Dr. Tobias Robischon, mayor of the city of Michelstadt, concluded: “Local supply in more remote neighbourhoods is an important issue not only for us in Michelstadt, but in many rural communities in the region. That’s why we’re always interested in innovative ideas and concepts such as delivery by drone and cargo bike, and are delighted to be part of this German premiere.”