Despite Czech rules that currently forbid urban parcel deliveries by unmanned aerial vehicles, Brno-based 3L Robotics expects to launch the country's first landing helipad for drone shipments in 18 months time.
The shipment automation terminal startup is spearheading a new drone-ready commercial office development in Brno, together with the property's developer CTP and architects Studio acht.
When it launches in mid-2024, Brno's drone shipment system will become the first of its kind in a central European commercial building, 3L says. The technology is designed to carry parcel volumes of up to 40 cubic metres, weighing less than 3 kilos.
European drone laws vary from country to country, though the EU also has bloc-wide rules with obligations that differ depending on the weight of the drone's payload. In relation to parcel networks, many countries have similar prohibitions to the Czech Republic.
According to 3L Robotics founder Luboš Lněnička as of now parcel drones must have Czech flight control's special dispensation to operate urban delivery routes. Parcel drones cannot fly without a manual operator, providing an effective safeguard while the industry completes testing.
Really the regulatory framework isn't so much a barrier, says Lněnička, it's a safety net that gives reassurances to the Czech public as automation technology is trialled and tested. And 3L is confident its drone helipad will prove robust in its execution.
"Based on GPS coordinates, the drone with a shipment will arrive above the roof of the building, then it will find the helipad and make a connection," Lněnička said, " After that, the helipad will verify whether the shipment is the right one, and it will lead the drone to landing. Finally, the shipment will be transported to a part of the building which is accessible for the staff or an autonomous vehicle assigned for the delivery,”
A similar formula was tried out at an industry expo in the US last September. Fresh from validation at the expo, the same technology will be used in Brno, to be installed on a 61-metre roof surface on CTP's forthcoming "multifunctional" commercial premises.
Brno itself is garnering economic attention. Czechia's second largest city offers an alternative to Prague's swarming Bohemian metropolis.
Jakub Kodr, head of business development at CTP, said: "For us, Brno has long been an important region where we have intensively developed all our activities, which, as I firmly believe, positively contribute to the good reputation of Brno as the most innovative city of the Czech Republic.