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A glimpse into the future of last-mile delivery

Vision van uses roof-mounted drones to complete package deliveries


HANOVER, Germany – A concept van Mercedes-Benz showed at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show offers a glimpse at how last-mile deliveries could be made in the future.

The Vision Van comes complete with roof-mounted drones, which grab parcels through a slot in the roof and then delivery them to docking stations. But the efficiency gains – up to 50%, Mercedes claims – begin even earlier, when the van arrives at the distribution hub for loading.

Mercedes-Benz Vision Van

Mercedes-Benz Vision Van

Today, a cargo van will often spend up to two hours being loaded, according to Stefan Maurer, head of future transportation systems for Mercedes-Benz Vans. The Vision Van features a fully automated cargo space.

“You can load this van in a matter of five minutes,” Maurer explained. That’s because the cargo racks are pre-loaded before the van arrives and then slid into the cargo compartment as a single unit.

“The racks are already filled with the parcels in the order they need to be distributed according to the most optimized tour planning,” Maurer said. “It saves you at least one-and-a-half hours of loading time and the van can really then leave the hub and do what it is supposed to do, transport and deliver the parcels to customers.”

The two roof-mounted drones select the appropriate parcel through a slot in the roof and then make the delivery to a secured landing pad that would be located at the receiver’s location – maybe even their backyard.

The drone sits on a landing pad, to which the parcel is delivered.

The drone sits on a landing pad, to which the parcel is delivered.

“It will take a while to have enough customers ready for drone delivery,” Maurer acknowledged.

One benefit is that delivery companies will be able to meet not only same-day, but time-definite delivery expectations. The drones have a range of 10 kms and a payload capacity of two kilograms.

The van itself is electrically driven and fully connected. Daimler said it is the world’s first van to offer a digitally connected process chain from the goods distribution depot to the consignee. Power is provided by 75 kW electric drive system with a range of 270 kms.

Stefan Maurer‎, head of future transportation systems MB Vans (left) and Volker Mornhinweg, head of MB Vans.

Stefan Maurer‎, head of future transportation systems MB Vans (left) and Volker Mornhinweg, head of MB Vans.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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