The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Oct. 13 held a demonstration of a noncontact delivery service featuring drones and autonomous robots on Jangdo Island off the coast of Yeosu, Jeollanam-do Province. The photo shows a delivery robot used at the event. (GS Caltex)

By Kim Young Deok and Yoon Sojung
Video = GX Caltex

A drone on the morning of Oct. 13 flew high over a gas station in the Soho-dong neighborhood of Yeosu, Jeollanam-do Province. After loading a few items, the drone automatically ascended to about 80 m and crossed the sea to arrive on Jangdo Island 900 m from the mainland.

When it approached a grassy field on the island, it descended vertically until it was 1 m from the ground and landed.

An autonomous robot was waiting for the drone and when the latter arrived, the robot opened its cargo box so that the drone could drop its load and return to the gas station. The robot then traveled 700 m to its final destination of Creative Studio. Delivery time took about 10 minutes.

This was the noncontact delivery service featuring drones and robots that was jointly demonstrated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.

The event showed the nation's first delivery service that uses drones and autonomous robots.

Having demonstrated in June a lunchbox delivery service using drones on Jeju Island, the ministry this time made an upgrade from the previous event by adding robots to overcome the limited accessibility of drones in places deemed hard to approach, such as crowded areas or indoors.

The drones were made by Neon Tech and the robots by Unmanned Solution. A drone can load up to 5 kg of items and fly 30-60 km per hour for up to 30 minutes. A robot can hold up to 150 kg of cargo and run for up to five hours at a speed of 5 km per hour.

산업통상자원부와 한국전자통신연구원은 8일 제주도 GS칼텍스 무수천주유소에서 ‘드론 활용 유통물류혁신 실증 시연 행사’를 개최했다. 사진은 시연에 사용된 드론이 이륙하는 모습. GS칼텍스

A trial run of drone delivery on June 8 was conducted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute. The photo shows a drone used in the test that was conducted at GS Caltex's Musucheon Stream gas station on Jeju Island. (GS Caltex)

By Kim Hyelin and Yoon Sojung

Autonomous drones in the near future are likely to deliver lunch sets, parcels or newspapers from convenience stores to consumers.

The trial operation of a drone-based delivery on June 8 was conducted at the Musucheon Stream gas station of GS Caltex on Jeju Island. Designed to demonstrate the mobility and logistic distribution of the high-tech service, the test was jointly carried out by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.

In the test, a user ordered food using the smartphone app of a GS convenience store. The food was then loaded on drones at their delivery base, a gas station. Each drone then delivered to the designated places -- a pension located 1.3 km away and a school just under a kilometer away -- and took just five minutes to complete delivery and return to base.

The ministry plans to inject KRW 35.2 billion into the project by 2022 to build and demonstrate a drone-based logistics service platform.

The latest demonstration aimed to show how autonomous drones developed for this project could deliver food to customers from a convenience store.

Both of the drones used in the test service – the ND-820 from Neon Tech and the XD-I6D of X Drone -- can take off and land automatically. The former can carry up to 25 kg and the latter 22 kg.

On the same day, GS Caltex and GS Retail announced their foray into the drone-based service sector for the first time in Korea, announcing their vision of using gas stations nationwide to form a logistics hub for drone delivery and future mobility.

With demand for drone-based logistical service predicted to rise in the era of non-contact service, the ministry will develop hydrogen-powered drones able to carry heavier items to farther regions and review using a gas station network as a hub for recharging electric- and hydrogen-powered drones.

The ministry said it expects drone-based delivery service can be helpful in remote areas like mountains or islands, especially for senior citizens and residents of less accessible areas, for quick delivery of essential and safety items.

The ministry said it will expand the sectors for drone delivery service and the types of service areas to both suburban and urban regions in phases.



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