Mercedes-Benz Vans love to be at the forefront of new technology, whether it be increased safety systems or new ways of delivering parcels. The latter of which Mercedes-Benz are in pole position; their ‘Vans & Drones’ project was brought to life in the summer of 2015 by the company’s Future Transportation Systems (FTS) unit who has been working together with Silicon Valley start-up Matternet, who specialise in drone transport.
Matternet will be part of the partnership to see Vans & Drones implemented into the real-world. The vehicle chosen for the job is the Mercedes-Benz Vito, which will be the first ever production vehicle to be designed as a mobile receiving station and landing site for drones.
This involves using an application to link up an independent system, in which drones are deployed as a means of transport, with the van. The drone locates the van via GPS. The van scans the airspace and transmits a light signal to ensure safe delivery. Only then does the drone land on the van’s roof fully autonomously with the help of an infrared landing guidance beam. The idea of using the van as a landing site is as unusual as it is ingenious. After all, drones are never held up by tailbacks or busy urban traffic. They are fast and efficient and do not produce any emissions. The direct air route is usually shorter than the land route – an unbeatable advantage, especially when something is needed fast.
“We can only learn from experience, and this is precisely what we are currently gathering in Germany and California,” said Thomas Wurdig from the Future Transportation team and continues, “Now, it is our task to show the opportunities of the connection of these technologies for us and for our customers. Thus, we can also support the political and regulatory processes and contribute to creating a framework that will make drone deliveries possible and safe in the future.”