Unifly and Dragonflypads join forces to enable drone use for last-mile delivery

- Antwerp, Belgium.

Early October 2021, DragonFlyPads, Unifly and partners carried out a series of unprecedented tests for parcel delivery by drone at Rungis International Market, the biggest food market in France, located in a busy urban environment only 15 km from Paris, France and 3 km from Orly international airport. DragonFlyPads installed a vertiport (drone reception station) capable of accommodating surveillance and cargo drones of any brand, while Unifly provided Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) technology to ensure situational awareness and ability to manage the drone traffic.
 
Over the course of two weeks, about more than 30 surveillance flights and over 50 transport flights took place day and night within the Rungis Market, with the participation of several wholesalers. Rungis International Market employs over 12 000 wholesalers, it is the size of Monaco, and every day more than 20 000 transportation trucks enter the market where goods are exchanged and dispatched mainly between 2 – 6 am every morning.   Various fragile products were successfully transported, ranging from exotic fruits and spare parts to defibrillators and even champagne.
 
What are vertipads? Why do we need them?
Drones need safe places to land and take off. This hybrid infrastructure, between a service station and mini airport, enables drones to operate in complete safety, sheltered from the elements, offering secure storage for both drones and cargo, repair facilities, and an efficient charging solution.  The vertipads, developed and deployed for the first time in France by Dragonflypads, are recycled maritime containers, ecological, mobile, and equipped with a seamless software that manages air to ground connections for the drones as well as the grid of vertipads.
 
How does the UTM system come into play?
Drones cannot fly in isolation; flights need to be planned and authorized, unexpected changes can occur at any time and need to be dealt with immediately. The UTM system ensures total situational awareness and real-time communication between all stakeholders to ensure the safe and efficient use of the airspace.


 Eric Gauthier and Sissel Thorstensen (both DragonFlyPads) and Marc Coen (Unifly), flanked by drone pilots.

Eric Gauthier and Sissel Thorstensen (both DragonFlyPads) and Marc Coen (Unifly), flanked by drone pilots.


The flyby of cargo over a commercial, complex and urban area such as the Rungis Market is a first in France.  Authorization was granted by Civil Aviation (DAGC) after a very rigorous process who continue to support DragonFlyPads in the development of new vertipads in other complex areas outside of Paris. 
 
Sissel Thorstensen, CEO of DragonFlyPads: “We have been working closely with Unifly over the past year and are delighted to have conducted a series of successful and conclusive cargo flights together in such a complex urban environment.”
 
Leon van de Pas, CEO of Unifly: “Using drones in a busy real-life environment like Rungis market brings us another step closer to making drones an integral part of our daily lives and businesses. Together with DragonFlyPads we demonstrated that drones can be used safely and efficiently and that they add value to daily business operations.”

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