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Germany: Heavy-duty drone makes first public launch in Hamburg

The drone, owned by Volocopter, offers a new method to transport goods to places that are otherwise difficult to reach. German logistics provider DB Schenker became a major investor in the drone last year.

The Volodrone takes its first public flight over the Hamburg Harbor

The Volodrone, seen here taking its first public flight over Hamburg, has a range of up to 40 kilometers

German air taxi manufacturer Volocopter launched a self-developed heavy-duty drone in public for the first time on Tuesday at the ITS World Congress in Hamburg.

In cooperation with German logistics provider DB Schenker, the company demonstrated the integration of the VoloDrone into logistics supply chains.

The test flight, which lasted about three minutes, took place around the harbor area of the city in northern Germany. The ITS congress is an international digital transport event.

DB Schenker, a subsidiary of Germany's national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, became an investor in Volocopter last year. For the logistics simulation, the electric load drone was outfitted with a loading box, stocked up and flown to a DB Schenker cargo bike.

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Alternative to traditional transport

The "Volodrone" is equipped with 18 rotors, is unmanned and electrically powered. It can transport ISO pallets of all sizes, weighing up to 200 kilograms (441 pounds), and has a range of 40 kilometers (25 miles). It would offer a new method of transporting goods to places that might be difficult to reach by traditional means.

"Thanks to a standardized attachment system, the Volodrone can be used for a variety of purposes and transport boxes, liquid or machinery, for example," the manufacturer said.

Volocopter chief executive Florian Reuter said the test flight was proof of the company's leading position in urban air mobility (UAM).

"We are the only UAM company that develops solutions for passengers and goods and demonstrates them in public flights worldwide." He said the cargo drone will make logistics processes "more robust, efficient and sustainable."

Delivers to remote locations

The drone could be used for deliveries of heavy packages to remote locations, or to transport bulky parts to construction sites.

"Wherever ground transport reaches its limits, the Volodrone can provide a new dimension of access via the air," the company said.

The test flight reached a maximum altitude of 22 meters, according to aviation news website Aero Telegraph.

German cities such as Berlin are hoping to incorporate drones into regular use in the near future. The capital city has set the goal of establishing drones as an everyday mode of transport in just a few years.

DPA contributed to this article.